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If I don’t have Tourette Syndrome, what’s wrong with me?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following blog entry originally was submitted on Life’s A Twitch, a website run by Canadian psychologist Dr. B. Duncan McKinley.

Question: I am a 14-year-old boy who lives in north west New Jersey. Ever since I was 7 I’ve had mild tics. They annoyed me but nothing more. But the last month or so the tics have become increasingly worse. Everybody notices….The thing is, I don’t have T.S. I have been tested at least 5 times and all came out negative. I am a freshman in a public high school and am in 4 out of 4 advanced placement classes. My question is, if I don’t have TS, what do I have, what’s wrong with me, and how can I stop. — M.S.S., NY, USA

Answer: While I can’t tell you over email what’s “wrong” with you as I would need to meet you to do so, there are different levels of TS, and different kinds of tic disorders. Since you’ve had tics for years, you may have what is called “Chronic Tic Disorder”, for example. This is where you don’t have a LOT of tics like you do in TS, and you only ever do movements or only ever make noises (never both like in TS). If, as you say, the tics have gotten worse lately you may yet end up being diagnosed with TS instead — yours might just be coming out a little later than it does in others. This might be because you are under more stress these days than you used to be (for example, you just started high school this year in all advanced classes — the increased work or bigger school might be part of it. Or maybe something around your house has changed, or you’ve just started a job — any of those things could affect your tics).

The bottom line is this, M.S.S.: whether it is TS, chronic tic disorder, or whatever, the same sorts of strategies, techniques, and medications work for all types of tics. Any of the writings or T(r)IC(k)S on my site about dealing with TS, dealing with teasers, telling people about your TS, etc. would all still be useful for you to read and try. In general, I can suggest that less stress, less concentration on the tics, getting less worked up about the tics, getting enough sleep, and activities that require a lot of energy and attention can all help to decrease tics.

I hope this helps,

Dr. Dunc.

NJCTS Admin

One Comment

  1. I can understand your frustration and wonder why you were not diagnosed with a Tic disorder in your quest to find answers. My son has Tourettes and I am the Mother who brings awareness to Tourettes as much as I can. The common misconception in society is that Tourettes is just tics, which is not true at all. Tics and Disorders make up Tourettes. It is so indivdual based and truly can be different with each person. My son was misdiagnosed and it took many years and several experts who missed his text book symptoms of TS before we finally had the answers we needed to get the resources he needs. My son’s tics are mild and it is his disorders that are the biggest challenge with his Tourettes. I wish you the best with your tics and great success!

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