Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to gain some perspective on Tourette’s syndrome…
Years ago, when the famed comedian and director, Larry David, produced an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which featured a chef who had Tourette’s syndrome (TS), I was pretty clueless about the disease. I didn’t know that there are different kinds of TS and that symptoms can really vary. The show was very popular back in the day, and in a baffling way, it helped to bring to light at least two of the symptoms:
Ahhh, the cursing stuff!
When the chef on Curb Your Enthusiasm starts cursing (a complex tic) and twitching his finger (a simple tic) as he’s working in the kitchen on the night of the grand opening of Larry’s new restaurant, everyone is shocked.
Tourette’s has been widely stigmatized on TV shows.
The surprising thing is that very few people actually have experienced involuntary outbursts where they curse or say something inappropriate/taboo.
Clinically, this is known as coprolalia and occurs in fewer than 10% of kids who’ve been diagnosed with TS. While some episodes of coprolalia are very apparent, others can be hard to identify. Typically, these episodes are triggered by stimuli in the environment, to which a person with TS will simply react—in some cases, it means blurting out a random string of words.
But let’s be honest, there are a lot of people out there who don’t “filter” themselves for a variety of reasons, and as a result, TS can be confusing and hard to diagnose at times.
But, really, who knew that you don’t have to have coprolalia in order to be diagnosed with TS!?
Well, it’s news to ME.
Heck, the way the media stigmatizes the disease, it’s a wonder that the public knows anything beyond that one symptom alone. And that’s why we have to fight back to get the word out.
If you watch the CYE episode, you’ll see the less obvious motor (physical) tic. Keep in mind, most motor tics are brief and can be “complex” or “simple.”
Simple tics are typically purposeless and repetitive in nature and involve one muscle group. There’s no rhyme or reason to them, and they are completely involuntary and nonrhythmic.
Complex tics can involve several muscle groups, whether you’re touching something or someone. Some people may jump around or “flip someone off,” etc.
It’s a complicated syndrome—one that is difficult to diagnose as there’s no single diagnostic test.