Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is Tourette's Syndrome always accompanied by swearing?"
My son swears sometimes but sometimes he just shouts a word. Is this still Tourette's?
Tourette's syndrome is a mental illness that causes people to have what we call tics. Tics are repetitive behaviors that people do because of a sudden urge to do them. For example, one common tic, that patients with Tourette's have is that they blink their eyes very quickly. This is caused by a sudden urge to blink their eyes that will often not go away until they do it. The action is still under voluntary control, but to the person with Tourette's syndrome, it is often easier to succumb to the desire to do one of these actions. Other examples of tics include face grimacing, neck stretching, hand clapping. More complex tics include repeating words people say (called echopraxia), and blurting out obscene language (called copropraxia). Despite Tourette's being known for copropraxia, this symptom is quite uncommon even in people with Tourette's. It is estimated that less than 10% of children with Tourette's syndrome have this tic. Thus, the vast majority of children that swear do not have Tourette's syndrome. I suggest that you schedule a checkup for your son with his pediatrician. The two of you can discuss this and any other symptom he is having. If his doctor is concerned at all, he may refer him to a child psychiatrist.