Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by tics – involuntary, rapid, sudden movements that occur repeatedly in the same way. The tics may occur many times a day nearly every day or intermittently. Tics periodically change in number and frequency, type and location and wax and wane in their severity. While some persons with TS have limited control of their symptoms from seconds to hours at a time, suppressing them may merely postpone more severe outbursts. Tics increase as a result of stress, anxiety, excitement and fatigue. They often decrease with relaxation or concentration on an absorbing task.

Things to know:

  • Premonitory urges:
    • Feeling an irresistible urge or tension before a tic
    • Sensations such as itching, tingling, or tension
  • Suppression:
    • Some individuals with Tourette’s can suppress their tics for a period of time, but it often results in an increase in premonitory urges and a subsequent release of tics.
  • Tic variability:
    • Tics can change in frequency, intensity, and type over time.
    • Tics may wax and wane, with periods of increased severity (exacerbations) and relative improvement (remissions).
  • Association with specific situations or activities:
    • Some individuals may notice an increase or decrease in tics during certain situations, such as stress, excitement, fatigue, or when engaged in specific activities.

It’s important to note that not everyone with Tourette’s syndrome experiences all of these symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.

Motor Tics

Eye blinkingClappingLip poutingSkippingChewing on clothes
Eye rollingPinchingLip lickingStepping backwardsKicking
Head jerkingShoulder shrugTongue ThrustingWalking on toesPulling at clothes
Facial grimacesKnee KnockingHair tossingTwirlingSomersaults
Facial contortionsLeg jerksArm flexingKnee bendingBody slamming
Nose twitchingStoopingArm flappingFoot tappingMouth stretching
Kissing Gesture
Abdominal jerking Tearing thingsFoot shakingSmelling fingers
Hitting selfFinger tappingSquattingFoot dragging

Vocal Tics

Throat clearingSnortingWhistlingBarking
SniffingCoughingLaughingSaying words
Guttural sounds

Complex Tics

Repeating phrases, words, parts of words; animal sounds; stuttering; amplitude of speech; muttering; Palilalia – Repeating one’s own words; Echolalia – Repeating other’s words; Coprolalia – using obscenities/socially taboo phrases.


Obsessions are repetitive, unwanted thoughts. Compulsions are repetitive, ritualistic acts that must be performed to rid oneself of the obsession.


Concern for symmetry/orderPreoccupation with knives/blood, etc.
Concern for cleanlinessWorrying about harming self or others
Over focusing on minute detailsConcerned about germs/dirt
Having to have “just right” feelingHoarding/collecting
Over focusing on moral issuesThinking about forbidden behaviors
Over focusing on one idea/objectMental coprolalia (Sexual thoughts/images)
Focusing on specific numbersAggressive thoughts/images
Needing to experience sensationsObsessive fears


Adjusting clothing to feel just rightLicking self or others
Evening things upExcessive hand-washing/bathing
Counting objectsErasing repeating
Excessive Ordering/arranging/fiddling withTouching objects, others, self
Checking & recheckingSexually touching self
Repeating actionsPicking skin/sores
Needing to say or do what told not to doCracking knuckles
Needing to start over if interruptedVomiting
Repeating the same questionSmelling hands or objects
Perseverating on a taskNot able to change tasks
Echopraxia (repeating the actions of others)


  • Often fidgets with hands/feet
  • Difficulty remaining seated
  • Easily distracted/Engages in physically dangerous activities
  • Blurts out answers – loses everything
  • Difficulty waiting turn
  • Difficulty following through on instructions/organizing work. Shifts from one uncompleted task to another
All material © 2024, NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome