When I was finally diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (you’ll also see it listed as Tourette’s Syndrome or Tourette disease), I had already logged a pretty impressive array of tics.
I was a freshman in High School, way too tall to be anonymous anyway, and now I was a twitching, whooping mess.
If you have TS, or you know someone who has it, you probably know that Tourettes symptoms fall within a spectrum that includes so much diversity that sometimes it can be hard to figure out that two people with the movement disorder both have the same condition.
But for all the thrilling variety, we are all bound by two major classes of tics. Every manifestation, no matter how absurd, seems to fit under this umbrella.
Involuntary movements and vocalizations
My description of the “twitchy, hooting mess” sums it up fairly well. The psychogenic urges that lead to symptoms generally produce:
1. Movements that the Tourettic cannot control
2. Sounds that…see item #1. More involuntary goofiness.
My movement tics have included:
- blinking my eyes
- curling my lips
- picture any facial contortion you can think of – someone with Tourette’s is probably doing it
- biting my lips
- rolling my tongue
- scratching (myself)
- punching (also, the honor is reserved only for myself)
- curling my toes
- swinging my arms
- clapping the backs of my arms or hands together
- cranking my neck around
- and oh, so much more…
Now, the noises–
- Think of the Looney Toons Tasmanian Devil – all of that, but generally not all at once
- Yelling, although for me the tics have always been noises, never words
- Throat clearing
Luckily, at this point most of these are just fond memories. I’ve had a lot of success in the most recent year of controlling my tics. If you’re curious about that I’d recommend watching this video I made.
If you’re just looking for the crash course in how TS manifests, this is the core of it: moving and vocalizing, involuntarily. Although I suspect that the word “unvoluntary” might better describe the nature of Tourette’s Syndrome symptoms. I think involuntary implies that there is a surprise when tics happen, as if we didn’t know they were coming. Unvoluntary may be more accurate in describing something that, while inconvenient and irresistible, we are still aware of as it happens. It’s rarely a surprise for me when I have a tic.