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What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a genetically determined neurological condition. It affects one school child in every hundred and is more common amongst boys. Over 300,000 children and adults are living with TS in the UK.

Key features

The key features are tics – involuntary sounds and movements, which must be present for at least 12 months to meet the diagnostic criteria. Up to 85% of people with TS will also experience co-occurring conditions and features which might include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety. Visit our Symptoms page for further information.

Destroying the myths about TS

TS is often misunderstood as a condition which makes people swear, or say socially inappropriate things. Although it is true that ‘coprolalia’ – the clinical term for involuntary swearing – is a symptom of TS, it only affects a minority of people. 90% of people with TS do not have coprolalia.

Who has TS?

It is estimated that TS affects one school child in every hundred and more than 300,000 children and adults in the UK live with the condition.

As with other neurological conditions, TS is more prevelant in boys.

Currently there is no technology that can predict how TS might affect someone long-term. It is thought that approximately half of children with a TS diagnosis will see a significant reduction in their symptoms as they approach adulthood. For some people, living with TS will continue throughout their life, but symptoms are likely to wax and wane (a term often used to describe the coming and going of tics).

A 2018 research study looking at the 'Long-term follow up of patients with Tourette Syndrome concluded that the findings reflect "a positive overall long term prognosis for individuals with TS".  You can read more about this research here.

Other Tic disorders

Tourette syndrome is on the spectrum of conditions known as tic disorders.  Other conditions on this spectrum include:

  • Transient tic disorder or provisional tic disorder – motor tics usually confined to the face and neck although other body parts may be affected; sometimes vocal tics are also present.  Tics only last a few weeks or months
  • Chronic tic disorder – either vocal or motor tics (not both) are present for longer than 1 year
  • Tourette syndrome – multiple motor tics and one or more vocal tics present for at least 12 months although not always concurrently
  • A tic disorder not specified - tics are present, but do not meet the criteria for any specific tic disorder


Download our presentation for young people, which explains about Tourette syndrome, and can be used to raise awareness at both both home and in school.

Please visit our Resources section for further information, audio and video downloads on 'About TS'.



"People need to know that TS is involuntary. We don't need pity, but some will always need help, support and understanding"