Public Figures Bringing Awareness to Tourette Syndrome

By Sree Lakkamraju, NJCTS Youth Council

Unlike the general public, celebrities and other big names don’t have the luxury of hiding their private lives from the world. Whether it be relationships, family life, or drama, many are just itching to leave opinionated comments on social media. Regarding their health, people from Billie Eilish to even Mozart must learn to handle their tics under the spotlight. Billie Eilish has publicly spoken and confirmed that she was an individual with Tourette’s in 2018, although had been living with it since she was 11 years old. She has had time to accept her tics and learn to live with it.  It’s wonderful and inspiring for a well-known and loved figure to openly encourage and educate others who may be struggling like she did. It is and should be the goal of everyone with Tourette’s to be comfortable in their own shoes. It is not required to share it with others around you, but it would ease some of the stress or anxiety that comes with the disorder.

However, other figures, such as Lewis Capaldi, are just learning the name, and are not so open about it. The talented singer’s tour came to a halt recently due to his struggle with Tourette Syndrome. I found that I was able to relate to him on multiple notes; specifically, “ ‘The fact that this probably won’t come as a surprise doesn’t make it any easier to write’ ” (France). Long before I was formally diagnosed by my neurologist at the beginning of 2023, people around me were well-aware of certain tics of mine: rapid eye-blinking, neck movements, etc. Capaldi stated that he had a feeling others knew about it, which was part of why confirming his health struggle was so arduous. According to him, he believed that a two or three week break would help sort out his mental struggles. But like me, it seems like he realized that trying to throw yourself into the thick of things and not taking care of yourself can make it all worse. He emphasized that he tried to do a lot of “resting” before his Glastonbury Festival concert. I applaud him for putting himself and his needs before all else, so he can be the best version of himself in the future. I think everyone, those with and without Tourette’s, should appreciate this lesson and use it in their own lives. It’s difficult to live a life in the public eye, and Capaldi handled the situation perfectly. In fact, he released a documentary this past spring on Netflix called “How I’m Feeling Now,” about his diagnosis and the management of his illness. 

Another example of a public figure is Baylen Dupree. Baylen took to social media to spread awareness about her life with Tourette Syndrome, and met backlash from the public. They claimed she was faking her tics and received an overwhelming amount of negativity. She even appeared on Dr. Phil and on national television, only to be laughed at by the news anchor. Yet, she still continues to advocate for individuals through her platform daily. When I went to Washington DC for Advocacy Day this year, she was there as well. Not only is she a kind and friendly individual, but also motivates and inspires others through her work.

Despite the time period, accounts show how far back Tourette Syndrome goes.  A recent study hypothesized that the famous and celebrated composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  may have suffered from the same disorder. A common disorder known to be associated with Tourette Syndrome is OCD. His strange practices and obsessions exhibited signs of TS, OCD, and even suggested bipolar disorder. It’s stated in an article from the National Library of Medicine that “Mozart used to practice inappropriate joking and punning and indulged in frivolous behavior without appreciation of consequences. This could be interpreted as analogous to impulse control or conduct disorder, frequently encountered in patients with TS, and occasionally leading to problems with the law,” (Ashoori & Jankovic). The takeaway from learning about different figures and their lives is how their diagnoses (or suspected) did/do not inhibit their abilities or halt their lives. Mozart was a creative genius who constructed musical masterpieces despite his health conditions, and celebrities nowadays continue to perform for mass audiences and embrace their tics wholly. Time and time again, celebrities and public figures are blasted on headlines by the press. The few times they are publicized for the right reason should not be taken for granted, for we can all learn from and appreciate their experiences. 


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