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Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette was the first to describe the syndrome that bears his name. The described patient was an 86-year-old French noblewoman who uttered blasphemies involuntarily.
Tourette’s causes so much pain, especially in social interaction. If you’re not familiar with Tourette’s, it’s a disorder characterized by repetitive and involuntary movements and vocalizations. I see many of my Tourette’s patients socially isolating, even to the extent of Agorophobia. They are embarrassed; their families are embarrassed. There is a lot of shame associated with the disorder, particularly when the patient can’t control the expletives coming out of their mouth.
Scientists are working on deepening their understanding of the biology behind Tourette’s. One promising avenue of research relates to the relationship between Tourette Syndrome and other neuropsychiatric disorders, such as ADHD and OCD. A whopping 50-66 percent of children diagnosed with Tourette’s also have ADHD, and half of them have OCD. I don’t have the numbers for adults, but from what I’ve seen, the overlap is substantial.
With my patients, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has been the more common partner to Tourette Syndrome. I find that the Tourette’s seems to get worse with stress. So, when I work on the anxiety and OCD, the Tourette’s tends to improve.
My patients have experienced relief from the medications and therapies available now, but it’s my hope that as we come to better understand the shared biology behind Tourette’s, ADHD, and OCD, we’ll develop even better treatments that will lead to substantial improvement in quality of life for all those affected by the disorders.
Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. You can request an appointment or call at (208) 215-7167.
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