Tourettes and swearing

I know only a small percentage of people with Tourettes have the random swearing kind, but how come whenever they yell out a word, it’s a swear? Are there any Tourette’s people who yell out non-swears randomly?

Sure. There’s a fascinating documentary about TS called “Twitch And Shout” and they interview a lot of people. I remember one woman who kept saying “Hey white boy!” as one of her verbal tics. A cousin of mine with TS went through a period as a child where he would bark like a dog.

I have TS but no copralalia (uncontrolled swearing). No actual “verbal” tics but for years I’ve had this little throat-clearing/tongue-clicking thing going on. The tics tend to change a bit over time.

By typing this response, you won’t be able to see the waving of my arms and hands as I “explain” the answer. In fact, I really don’t know much about the disorder but it won’t stop me from chiming in.

In Tourette’s, one of the problems can be lack of inhibition of the brain’s limbic system (LS). Normally, the LS is involved with emotion and threats (and responses to it). The limbic system is always humming with the potential for emotional outbursts including swearing. However, these are usually suppressed by the action of other parts of the brain to inhibit the LS. So, if the usual LS inhibitory systems are missing or malfunctioning, as they can be in Tourette’s, there can be spontaneous emotional outbursts, again including swearing.

A very similar phenomenon occurs in people with strokes affecting both sides of the brain (and thus loss of the normal LS inhibition) or with strokes affecting the language “centre”. In the latter instance, even though the stroke victim cannot voluntarily speak (much), they can swear with alacrity (especially when frustrated). In other words the stroke, by damaging the voluntary language center, thereby also caused loss of inhibition to that part of the LS responsible for spoken outbursts, i.e. swearing.

Most people with Tourette’s do not swear. They may grunt or say weird/inappropriate words and phrases, but most do not swear.

(Per the definition of Tourette’s, an individual must have at least one motor tic and one vocal/phonic tic.)

I swear (heh) that I read that swear words were stored differently to other words, hence some stroke sufferers being able to swear even when they couldn’t use other words. Damned if I can find a cite that says specifically that.

Pssst . . . probably not quite the cite you had in mind, but look two posts up.

A guy I worked with would involuntarily shout “BIP!” every 30 seconds or so. You get to the point where you get used to it.

As far as I know “bip” isn’t vulgar in any language…Unless he slowly trained himself from “Big Inserted Penis” to the acronym “BIP”

Same here, as well. Mine got really bad in 2001, then seemed to at least fade until about 2008, until I finally decided to seek meds. They’ve helped tremendously.

But lately my 8 yo son has been exhibiting tics that seem even stronger than when I was his age. I’ve been trying to teach him some mitigation techniques, but I fear meds might be in his future as well. He’s been displaying far more verbal tics that morph over time, from having to repeat words, to the weird noise he repeats over and over now. I believe there to be a certain OCD element related to it as well.

I remember seeing a segment with a fellow who had tourettes who when in the company of a black person couldn’t help with an emotional outburst of “nigger” or “niggers”.
So he trained himself to change the end of the word if he had an outburst to “niggle” or “niggles” and then he’d purposefully tack on the words “dime(s), quarter(s).”

Also from “Twitch & Shout”, a woman recounts the time that she was in line at the bank when a black gentleman stood behind her. She could tell that she was about to say “nigger” (one of her tics) and she was able to turn it into “purple nigger”. She was about to apologize to the guy when he looked at her and said “Lady, if you think niggers are purple you’ve got problems”.

I don’t know if the verbal tics feel the same as the physical ones but for me the motor tics are under semi-conscious control; if I want to I can stop them for a while, but much like breathing you eventually have to give in and let it happen.

CMYK, in my case the tics are really not that bad - they have never prevented me from doing anything (other than nude modelling, that’s another story) and I’ve heard that the various medications can have nasty side-effects.

Yeah, it’s similar, but not quite what I was thinking of.

As many as 1 in 100 people might have Tourette’s, a very large proportion of them undiagnosed; obviously, the number of people shouting profanity for no reason is substantially lower, with as few as 10% of people with diagnosed Tourette’s exhibiting it.

The more I compare what I do with the stories of people who are actually diagnosed with Tourette’s, the more I think I have a very mild form that nobody has ever bothered to diagnose. I can say from experience that the sensation of a tic ‘welling up inside you’ and you only having minimal control over its expression is precisely what I feel; depending on how much control I’m exerting, it may be too late for me to stop the tic once I notice it’s begun.

I have not been diagnosed with it, but I don’t know any better diagnosis. I started having strange tics around the age of 21 (which is why the doctors won’t give me the diagnosis, I suspect). It’s only been in the past year or so when I’ve started verbalizing.

I have a couple of phrases that I’ll release for no good reason at all. I have gotten good at stopping myself or at least turning down the volume, but not before you hear the first syllable. Since the first word is often “she”–what you’ll hear is “shhh”. Sometimes a person will say, “What?” and I’ll just shrug, not knowing what to tell them.

Most people don’t notice it unless they’re standing right next to me, though.

I’ve never had an urge to cuss.