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“Tourette Syndrome: Coping With Difference” — History

The following is part 4 of a series of entries that, as a whole, comprise a paper titled “Tourette Syndrome: Coping With Difference” I wrote for a class I am taking at the University of Texas-San Antonio.

Read part 1 here.
Read part 2 here.
Read part 3 here.

My first interdisciplinary perspective is historical in premise but follows, not only the history of where TS originated, but the social aspects that have hindered upon the understanding of TS.

Martinello’s article The Case of the Carousel describes her inquiry into the Brackenridge Park carousel in San Antonio, Texas. Martinello begins her inquiry after one particular pony on the carousel caught her eye. She could tell by its appearance that it had not been a favorite pick. “I wondered about all those ponies, but especially this unwanted one.” (Martinello).

My own inquiry into TS had started from that one area of TS that had not seemed of particular interest in the information I had previously found. I have no doubt that individuals affected by TS have often wondered how they relate to one another, but I wondered how much research has been done by “outsiders” that has focused on the individual differences in demeanor, emotional state and coping skills.

Like Martinello, the books on the library shelf didn’t give me much of a head start. I knew that being an “outsider” myself, I would have to find others who will lead me into the right direction. Martinello was able to gain ground for her inquiry once she spoke to the operator of the carousel and was able to find out the company that made the carousel.

I hadn’t initially intended to go for the historical perspective, but in an individual by the name of Lorenzo changed my mind. Like Brad Cohen, Lorenzo had grown up not knowing that it was Tourette Syndrome that had inflicted him with those movements and sounds. He was in his 30s before he was officially diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.

After pleading for help from a family member and being rejected, Lorenzo stated, “This had a very negative impact on me and prevented me from seeking further help. I went through the best years of my life thinking that I was responsible for these tics and associated behaviors.” (Lorenzo, personal communication, October 2012)

Every time I read this line, I would think about how lucky we are that Jacob was born in a time where doctors were able to diagnosis him at a young age. It’s unfortunate that many older individuals with TS have had to endure that period of time where their behavior was simply labeled “bad”.  Lorenzo and Brad Cohen’s stories made me wonder about the history of TS and how people with this condition were perceived during a time where TS was not a widely known condition.

The history of Tourette Syndrome seems to be lost somewhere between the time it was first documented and the late 1980s, which is where I was led each time I looked up the words “History of Tourette Syndrome”.  Possibly the first publication of a condition mirroring Tourettes is Malleus Maleficarum, which described a priest with strange tics (“History of Tourettes”, 2012).

However, the first documented case of TS was published by Physician Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard in the 1800s (Olive & Foster, 2010). Itard documented the case of an upper class woman, Marquise de Dampierre, who blurted out involuntary obscenities (Olive & Foster, 2010).

Five decades later Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who had studied the Marquise’s condition, went on to study and publish a report on nine other patients who suffered from tic disorders (Nelson, 2012). Tourette called the condition Maladie de tics, French for “tic sickness” (Bjorkland, 2009).

Much of the history of TS after Tourette is not clearly definitive with little information or information that cannot be proven to be factual. It seems that the history has been hard to produce since the history rests on a partial reproduction that was written in a language inaccessible by the many scholars studying Tourette (K.Davis, J.Davis & Dowler, 2004).

One thing that stands is that many physicians disagreed with Tourette theories and it would the 1960s before TS became a known as a neurological disorder rather than a “sickness” or a psychological condition.

There are, no doubt, many other undocumented cases of TS throughout history. Since the disorder was not documented and recognized during ancient times, physicians and historians thought their patients were possessed or enchanted by evil forces (Bjorklund, 2009).

We know through Cohen and Lorenzo’s histories that TS was still not well known with the general public into the 1960s and 70s. Both of these men had symptoms at fairly young ages, Cohen at six and Lorenzo at around age nine. Through the support of his mother Cohen was diagnosed by age twelve, but Lorenzo’s diagnosis would come much later due to his belief that he was responsible for his actions.

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