Tourette's Syndrome

Third post, so I thought I’d actually try to post something not having to do with Satan.

I’m curious to know if anyone has any recent information on Tourette’s Syndrome. I’ve done a light web search and come up with some stuff that basically says no one knows what causes it.

My questions center on whether it’s a physiological disorder or a psychological one. I lean toward physiological, because some people who have the condition only exhibit spasms and tics. However, there are some that also swear loudly.

This is what leads to my curiosity about this disease. The people who do scream out intelligible words almost always swear. They don’t yell stuff like “carburetor” or “Vaseline” or “Vegemite”. It’s swear words. This would tend to point toward a psychological affliction, unless profanity is stored somewhere specifically in the brain.

So here’s the questions:
1)Does anyone know of any new breakthroughs in diagnosis of Tourette’s?
2)Is the brain structured in such a way that swear words are located in a specific place?
3)If a person didn’t know any profanity, what would they yell out?


“I’m still here, asshole!”-Angus Bethune

It’s just that emotional words, such as curses, are easier to unlock than words which have a more “intellectual” context. You’ll see the same phenomenon in stroke patients and people who’ve suffered a head injury.

It’s a neurological disorder. Read the book “An Anthropologist on Mars” by Dr. Sacks (or is it Sachs? The “Awakenings” Doctor. My library is two floors away.)




The hard part is pronouncing the asterisks.

An ex-lover of mine was told that he had either a mild case of Tourette’s or perhaps it was something that was related to Tourette’s only not so dramatic, don’t recall exactly. If you hadn’t been told that about him, you wouldn’t have noticed anything more than that he seems a bit impatient at times. He didn’t have any trouble controlling his words, but he’s always got some part of his body moving, whether it’s just his fingers tapping or rubbing together, or some such thing.


A woman I recognized at a party of mutual friends as someone I was in girl scouts with had a son with tourette’s. In a brief (15 minutes?) chat with her I learned that Tourette’s mostly effects males, swearing can be involved, but not always. Sometimes grunting, beeps, whistles, groaning is done.

I read an article about three years ago while waiting for an appointment about how “they”
( I don’t remember who or whom.) thought Tourette’s was something that happened at conception or shortly thereafter.Something along the lines of the sperm wiggin’ out before penetrating the egg, whatever that means. It must have been a lot of whooey because I’ve never heard anything else about it since. ( Not that I’m looking for it.)

I think it’s a purely physiological condition. Curse words do have a different function than ordinary words, so I expect they are processed differently by the brain. Like if you’re walking across the newly-waxed supermarket floor and they didn’t put up the “slippery floor” sign, and you lose your footing and whale your head on the tile. You’re not going to say, “Gosh I really think they should have put up the “slippery floor” sign!” - you’re going to say something short and sweet. It’s not even really voluntary.

So I suppose Tourette’s is just some sort of mis-triggering of our semi-voluntary stress reactions - cursing, shouting, nervous twitches. It’s just that, with Tourette’s it’s not triggered by anything stressful, it just happen whenever it wants.

That was my take on it, too, Boris. It seemed odd that those words were specifically shouted out. The ideas and imports associated with those words seemed to be the trigger for their use, but I wasn’t sure if they were actually stored and processed in a different area of the brain. It stands to reason that they would be, but I had never heard or seen anything stating that.

It seems that these words are used for their inappropriateness in most situations-I must admit that the first exposure to Tourette’s that I ever had was on an episode of “L.A. Law”, where one of the firm’s clients suffered from the condition. In the courtroom, he said pretty much everything that he could (on national television, that is), even callling his lawyer a racial slur. I’m wondering if those who have Tourette’s have less of a tendency to have outbursts in private, realxed settings than they do when in a public setting, where cursing and shouting would be far more inappropriate.

“I’m still here, asshole!”-Angus Bethune

Wow. That’s an interesting thought.

My main thought about Tourette’s is, wouldn’t it be horrible to have this syndrome before it had a name? Especially if you had a particularly profanity-prone case. You’d be sitting in kindergarten, and the teacher would say, “No we’re going to do finger painting. Does anybody know what finger paint is?”

And poor Tourette’s sufferer would shout out “Pee pee!” and get in trouble. “I couldn’t help it. I didn’t mean to shout that out, it just happened.”

“Yeah right, kid, I’m calling your parents.”

And it would only get worse as you learned nastier cuss words.

I imagine the victims of this syndrome, or their punishers, must have tried gags and other nasty things to try and get piece and quiet.

To expand on what Boris wrote, there’s different types of swearing. Some people consciously use it in their speech, but often times swearing is an unconscious verbal outburst (like when you hit your thumb with a hammer). Tourette’s swearing is of the latter type. So if you’re someone who says “carburater” when you drop an anvil on your toe, you’ll still say that.

This link is kind of weird, since it seems to say that speculating that Mozart had Tourette’s syndrome “maligns” children and adults with TS. Being compared to Mozart is a bad thing? In any case, there are other, also speculative, proposals that famous people have had TS, but that it was percieved, in their time, as merely eccentric behaviour.

As I understand it, a person with Tourettes, can somewhat control his actions. It is akin to a sneeze. You can stop it and hold it in, but usually it comes out.

I still don’t understand the language bit. I hear it isn’t as common as believed. I don’t not swear at all. Even if I hit my thumb with a hammer or whatever. It is just a habbit I got into (mum wouldn’t let us swear so…).

You people are so full of wags I’m going to puke.

Everyone with Torrete’s Syndrome doesn’t swear. I believe the percentage is around 30%. The verbal outbusts can be anything.

The facial movements are called verbal tics and it includes sniffing and eye blinking.
Jerking of body parts are also a symptom. Milk maids grasp is another problem.Huffing is too. You might not breath normaly in and out. I breath in and hold my breath until I need to breath again. I flex my abdamon muscles constantly on a bad day.

Repeating something over and over for no good reason is another symptom, related to the compulsive behavor some people exhibit.

Someone with Torretes can stop symptoms for a short time by extreme concentraction, but the movements come back doubled. It’s like having an itch and trying not to scratch it.

People with Torrettes can have wide emotional swings, but you would have emotional swings too, if you had these symptoms day after day.

Treatments are not very effective and basicaly are neral receptor blockers that have lot’s of bad side effects. The blockers help to reduce the random body movements. The drugs are pysco-reactive in that they afect the functioning of the brain.

I have Sydenhams Chorea which is basicaly Torretes brought on by an strept throat that also inflames areas of your brain, you can also have heart damage which isn’t like Torretes. I’ve had this for thirty years and it’s always a problem, just some days are like living in hell. People with either of these two diseases often are diagnosed with MS.

Currently I’m on the last medicine that I can take for it. All the rest had side effects worse than the disease it’s self.

Anybody with the uncontrolable facial ticks can try the new Biotox shots. The shots work great for the face. They only last 3 months at the most and will cost you about $2,000.

Ok, Phobia, sorry. Didn’t mean to bring on any violent upchucking.

I realize that not everyone who has Tourette’s swears. But those that do are who I was interested in in the first post.

Actually, I suppose it would be better to state that I was interested in the was the brain processes certain words, connecting them with certain emotions and protocols defined by both personal experience and societal standards. As I stated before, I find it curious that those specific words, generally used to inflame or shock people, are the ones some Tourette’s victims say.

So really, I’m asking about certain brain activities, of which Tourette’s provides an interesting example.

“I’m still here, asshole!”-Angus Bethune

Phobia, could I ask your input on something? I recently had a strange incident with a woman I met only very briefly and in a professional capacity. She called to ask me out, which I welcomed, but she seemed very odd on the phone. In addition to sounding just sort of “out of it”, she would occassionally make a noise that was out of place and repetitive, the same phrase. That immediately made me wonder about Tourette’s. I’ve known someone with Tourette’s, so it came to mind as a possibility.
But this is the real kicker: In addition to the noises and just being sort of odd sounding, she got extremely sexual in a totally inappropriate way. No details here, but suffice to say it was way, way overboard for someone I don’t even know.
The end result was that she creeped me out, but then when I saw her the next day she seemed totally different – nothing inappropriate, even fairly shy. The contrast made me wonder about medication, or the lack thereof.
Maybe I’m totally on the wrong track to wonder about Tourette’s, but you sound like you might have an opinion. Besides the vocalization, could Tourette’s or the medication result in that sort of behavior?
– Greg, Atlanta

Ever think she might have simply been drunk?
(Are you going out with her?)

I hvae personally known 3 people (that I knew had Tourettes). The first had an unconscious tic where her shoulder blade would actually appear to be coming out of socket. This was coupled with a lot of uncontrollable behavior. Back then she was simply labeled as a trouble maker and behavior problem. Not a lot was known about it, but she didn’t holler profanities ( not any more than the other teens I knew at the time.) The other 2 were students that I taught. One of them was the sweetest, hard-working and well0behaved child I ever met. I had no idea until his mother informed me of his “condition” during our first parent conference. The other another well behaved hard working kid. Only he does have a tic where he shakes his head about 10 itmes a minute.

I think that this syndrome has gotten a bum rap which is perpetuated by television shows and movies which emphasize the cursing aspect. Unfortunately I guess it’s similar to the old jokes about the leper “lending a hand,” and all the Reagan Alzheimer jokes. It is only funny if it happens to someone else, and shouldn’t be even then.

One must learn by doing things; for though you think you know it you have no certainty until you try.

Some people with Torretes will utter sexual enduendos instead of the common swear words. It’s a matter of saying something inappropriate for the situation.

As for the medicine having an affect on your personality, yes. I stopped a medication after a few weeks, because it made me hate anybody I saw. I wanted to punch them. Consider the fact I have never hit anybody in my life. The side effects ruled out that class of medicines for me.

Here’s a question:

I have a facial tic that manifests itself in times of stress, or sometimes for no apparent reason.

I have been known to suddenly vocalize random thoughts without realizing it, or meaning to, again for no apparent reason.

I am often fidgety, and frequently when I am sitting in a chair, I will jiggle my leg like a little kid who really has to go.

Sometimes, when I see somebody coming, my hands will unconsciously form a fist or a claw. This would make sense if it only happened for people I hate, but it’s usually total strangers.

Do I perhaps have a mild case of Tourette’s? Or am I just weird?

I tell you, my username gets more and more appropriate every day…

Modest? You bet I’m modest! I am the queen of modesty!