Tourette’s and Tics

Tourette’s syndrome is characterised by the development of tics that are persistent for over a year. Tics are involuntary movements or sounds that the child performs repetitively throughout the day. These tics become more prominent when the person is under pressure or excited. The person may describe an overwhelming urge to perform the tic. This urge increases the more they suppress it. They feel they need to complete the tic, often several times, to get relief from that urge. These feelings are called premonitory sensations.

Tics often present around or after 5 years of age. They can be associated with OCD and ADHD.


Examples of Simple Tics

  • Clearing throat
  • Blinking
  • Head jerking
  • Sniffing
  • Grunting
  • Eye rolling


Examples of Complex Tics

  • Performing physical movements, such as twirling on the spot or touching objects
  • Copropraxia involves making obscene gestures
  • Coprolalia involves saying obscene words
  • Echolalia involves repeating other people’s words



Usually tics will improve over time. Mild cases with no signs of underlying disease may only require reassurance and monitoring. Taking measures to reduce stress, anxiety and triggers can be helpful.

More severe or troublesome tics should be referred to a specialist. They may benefit from:

  • Habit reversal training
  • Exposure with response prevention
  • Medications may be tried in very severe cases, usually with antipsychotic medications

Co-morbid conditions such as OCD and ADHD may benefit from treatment.


Last updated January 2020
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