What Is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological condition that causes children, teens and adults to make sounds and movements that they don’t want to make and cannot control. These sounds and movements are called tics. Examples of motor tics can be eye blinking, head bobbing, shoulder shrugging and neck jerking, while vocal tics can be noises, throat clearing or utterances of whole words or even sentences. In rare cases, the words are profane.

Symptoms of TS include at least two motor tics and at least one vocal tic that persist for more than one year and begin before the age of 18. While it may be possible for some people to suppress their tics for a short time, the tics will eventually occur. Excitement or stress can make tics worse.

TS can interfere with emotional, social and academic performance. It can also cause other problems with attention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and mood disorders. That’s why treatment is important.

There is no cure for TS yet, but treatment options are available that may be able to reduce symptoms. Certain medications may help, depending on the severity of the tics and other related problems.

One promising treatment approach is Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT). In weekly sessions with a therapist, CBIT teaches patients to recognize the urges felt prior to ticcing. CBIT focuses on teaching and reinforcing coping skills to help manage TS symptoms. CBIT also teaches functional intervention steps to identify and manage the environments, situations and reactions that trigger tics.  

Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital have a pediatric Tourette Clinic that offers CBIT specifically for children. The clinic is among a limited number of locations offering this therapy in Illinois.

To schedule an appointment, please call 630.933.6631.