What is it?

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition (affecting the brain and nervous system) that is characterized by a combination of involuntary noises and movements called tics.

What are the symptoms?

Tics that have been present for at least a year and include at least one vocal tic.

Tics can be:

  • vocal (sounds) – such as grunting, coughing or shouting out words
  • physical (movements) – such as jerking of the head or jumping up and down

Tics can also be:

  • simple – for example, making a small movement or uttering a single sound
  • complex – for example, making a series of movements or speaking a long phrase

How is it treated?

There is no cure for Tourette’s syndrome, but treatment can help to control the symptoms.

A treatment plan may involve a type of psychological therapy, known as behavioural therapy. There are two types of behavioural therapy that have been shown to help.

  • Habit reversal therapy – involves monitoring the pattern and frequency of the tics and identifying any sensations that trigger them. The next stage is to find an alternative, less noticeable method of relieving the sensations that cause a tic (known as premonitory sensations). This is known as a competing response.
  • Exposure with response prevention (ERP) –involves increasing exposure to the urge to tic in order to suppress the tic response for longer. This works on the theory that you get used to the feeling of needing to tic until the urge, and any related anxiety, decreases in strength.


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