About TS > Symptoms
The symptoms of Tourette Syndrome (TS) are tics, repeated movements and sounds. It is important to understand that these are chronic (long-term) and involuntary. Someone with TS may be able to suppress them for a period but eventually they have to let the tics out.
Tics usually start in childhood around the age of seven, and are usually worst between 10-12 years. However, in approximately half of TS patients, most symptoms disappear by the age of 18. TS is a persistent disorder but not always greatly disabling.
The first tics often start around the head and face, like blinking and/or grimacing. Vocal tics tend to appear later, around age 11. The different symptoms can be simple, such as blinking, or complex, like touching or jumping. Examples of vocal tics besides uttering words or making sounds are throat clearing, sniffing and/or coughing.
Even within the same person, the tics vary in many ways:
- they wax and wane; they get better and worse over time
- they change; one tic stops and another starts
- they may be made worse by stress and anxiety
- they may be alleviated with relaxation or concentration on an absorbing task
These changes are completely unpredictable. However, just before a tic is about to happen it is common to experience so called premonitory sensations. These sensations can be either localised - in the area where the tic is about to happen - or generalised. It is often very difficult, even for family, friends, teachers and employers of a person with TS, to believe that their actions or vocal utterances are involuntary, but they are.
Over 85 percent of people with TS have more than just tics. Additional conditions (‘comorbidities’) include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children and adults may also suffer from ‘rages’. Co-morbidities often present more problems than the tics and can be less visible.