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Tourettes and other Tic Disorders

Introduction to Tic Disorders

Tourettes and other Tic Disorders

Tic Disorders are a type of Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Neurodevelopmental means that symptoms affect the body's nervous system. Tic disorders are a result of problems with the body's nerves which transmit signals to and from the brain. Typically, these disorders begin in early childhood (between ages 4 and 6 years of age) and affect the child's social, academic or occupational functioning in some way. Occupational functioning means use of muscles, making sense of information seen/heard/touched, play skills, and activities of daily living (dressing eating, toilet usage, etc.).

All of the Tic Disorders share a common characteristic of having vocal or motor (physical) tics, which are sudden, rapid, recurring body movements or vocalizations (noises, words or phrases).

Tics are classified as either simple or complex and examples include:

  • Simple motor tics, which are sudden, brief, repetitive bodily movements that involve a limited number...More

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What are Tic Disorders

  • Tic Disorders are a type of Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Neurodevelopmental means that symptoms affect the body's nervous system.
  • Tic disorders are a result of problems with the body's nerves which transmit signals to and from the brain.
  • Typically, these disorders begin in early childhood (between ages 4 and 6 years of age) and affect the child's social, academic or occupational functioning in some way.
  • All of the Tic Disorders share a common characteristic of having vocal or motor (physical) tics, which are sudden, rapid, recurring body movements or vocalizations (noises, words or phrases).
  • Tic Disorders are diagnosed by the type of tics that are present and how long they have been present. These include:
    • Tourette's Disorder, (commonly referred to as Tourette's Syndrome) - includes multiple motor and one or more vocal tics that have been present for more than one year.
    • Persistent (Chronic) Motor or Vocal Tic Disorder - involves single or multiple motor tics or vocal tics that have been present for more than one year.
    • Provisional Tic Disorder - when single or multiple motor and/or vocal tics that have been present for less than one year.
    • Other Specified Tic Disorder - when symptoms are like those of a tic disorder and cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other functioning, but do not meet the full criteria for any of the 3 disorders above. This category is used when the clinician specifies the reason that criteria are not met, such as "with onset after age 18 years."
    • Unspecified Tic Disorder - when symptoms are like those of a tic disorder and cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other functioning, but do not meet the full criteria for any of the 3 disorders above. This category is used when the clinician chooses not to specify the reason that criteria are not met or when there is not enough information to make a more specific diagnosis.

For more information

What is Tourette's Disorder/Tourette's Syndrome?

  • Tourette's Disorder is more commonly referred to as Tourette's Syndrome. The disorder is named for Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, the pioneering French neurologist who in 1885 first described the condition.
  • The symptoms of this disorder include:
    • both multiple motor (body) and one or more vocal tics that have been present at some point during the illness
    • the tics may come and go, but have been experienced for more than one year since the first tic occurred
    • the condition first appears while the person is under 18 years of age
    • the symptoms are not the result of effects on the body from a substance (such as cocaine) or another medical condition
  • It is estimated that 3 to 8 per 1,000 school-aged children have Tourette's disorder. Typically, it occurs more often in male children than females (from 2-4 times more likely).
  • Research has found risk factors for this disorder that influence the tics being present and also cause them to be more severe. These include genetic factors, complications during pregnancy, older paternal (father's) age, lower birth weight, and a mother smoking during pregnancy.
  • Because tic symptoms do not often cause the person's health to be worse or stop them from living their daily lives, most people will not need medication to stop the tics.
  • There are also behavioral approaches that have been used, but none of these methods have been thoroughly tested and are not considered proven approaches for treating Tic Disorders at this time.

For more information

What is Persistent (Chronic) Motor or Vocal Tic Disorder?

  • The symptoms of this disorder include:
    • single or multiple motor or vocal tics that have been present at some point during the illness, but not both motor and vocal tics.
    • the tics may come and go, but have been experienced for more than one year since the first tic occurred
    • the condition first appears while the person is under 18 years of age
    • the symptoms are not the result of effects on the body from a substance (such as cocaine) or another medical condition
    • the criteria for Tourette's Disorder have not been met.
  • Clinicians will also specify if the condition is:
    • With motor tics only
    • With vocal tics only
  • Tic disorders are common in childhood, but are typically temporary. They generally occur more often in male children than female children (from 2-4 times more likely).
  • Research has found risk factors for this disorder that influence the tics being present and also cause them to be more severe. These include genetic factors, complications during pregnancy, older paternal (father's) age, lower birth weight, and a mother smoking during pregnancy.
  • Because tic symptoms do not often cause the person's health to be worse or stop them from living their daily lives, most people will not need medication to stop the tics.
  • There are also behavioral approaches that have been used, but none of these methods have been thoroughly tested and are not considered proven approaches for treating Tic Disorders at this time.

For more information

What is Provisional Tic Disorder?

  • The symptoms of this disorder include:
    • single or multiple motor and/or vocal tics
    • the tics have been present for less than one year since the first tic occurred
    • the condition first appears while the person is under 18 years of age
    • the symptoms are not the result of effects on the body from a substance (such as cocaine) or another medical condition
    • criteria for Tourette's Disorder or persistent (chronic) motor or vocal tic disorder have never been met.
  • Tic disorders are common in childhood, but are typically temporary. They generally occur more often in male children than female children (from 2-4 times more likely).
  • Research has found risk factors for this disorder that influence the tics being present and also cause them to be more severe. These include genetic factors, complications during pregnancy, older paternal (father's) age, lower birth weight, and a mother smoking during pregnancy.
  • Because tic symptoms do not often cause the person's health to be worse or stop them from living their daily lives, most people will not need medication to stop the tics.
  • There are also behavioral approaches that have been used, but none of these methods have been thoroughly tested and are not considered proven approaches for treating Tic Disorders at this time.

For more information 


News Articles

  • When is Tourette Syndrome Actually Autism?

    Repetitive behaviors, restricted interests occur in both disorders, make correct diagnosis tricky, researchers report. More...

  • Deep Brain Stimulation May Ease Tourette 'Tics'

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