According to Scientific American, medication has long been the primary mode of treatment for those with Tourette syndrome. While these medications are effective in controlling the disease, the drawbacks of this type of treatment are the many side effects of it. An alternative to standard medication is Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT). This type of therapy may be ushering out traditional medicines for patients with Tourette syndrome.
Tourette syndrome is a rare nervous system disorder in which those who struggle with it experience involuntary movements or vocalizations, otherwise known as tics. These tics induce a range of actions and movements, from repetitive blinking to unintentional blurting of sounds or words. These tics include arm and head jerking, grunting, coughing or clearing of one’s throat, unintentional swearing or vulgar statements, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown and there are varying treatments for the condition. To learn more about Tourette syndrome, click here.
CBIT is a type of behavioral therapy that has been developed over the past 45 years. CBIT is thought to heighten understanding of neuroplasticity and is supported by scientific research. In this particular type of behavioral therapy, Tourette syndrome patients, with the help of therapists, learn a plethora of tic-managing activities.
Like with most types of therapy, CBIT first works on getting the patient to realize and be aware of their tics. Tourette syndrome patients also learn to develop competing reactions to their tics. In the case of a neck-jerk tic, patients may be instructed to tense the neck while lowering the chin to off-put the involuntary movement. Eventually, tics urges may dissipate and patients will have an active way to suppress the tic.
Additionally, therapists will encourage patients and their family members to pinpoint what might trigger tics and what might add fuel to the tic’s fire. When these triggers are identified, therapists can give patients and families detailed ways to change the home/work/social environment in order to reduce tics.
Lastly, therapists in CBIT inform patients about the tics and instruct in relaxation skills. These relaxation skills are believed to make the tics easier to control.
The therapy is usually around eight sessions, but given on an individual basis. These sessions are typically 60–90 minutes long, which is not too big of a time commitment in the scheme of things. This therapy has been proven to be highly effective, so the minor hassle along with it is worth it for most patients.
Scientists at UCLA found that CBIT was a much more effective therapy than supportive therapies that don’t teach specific tic-managing strategies. They published this finding in a Journal of the American Medical Association article in 2010.
Another published study in the Journal of Child Neurology showed that children who benefitted from CBIT also showed improvement in behavior problems, including anxiety, after six months. Another study found that CBIT works effectively in adults with Tourette syndrome as well as children.
Not only this, but CBIT also improved the self-esteem in those that used the therapy. Compared to traditional medicines that could cause bad side effects, CBIT seems to be the new best thing for treating Tourette syndrome.