Ways to Support a Friend with Tourette, Part 3: Reassurance is calming

Tourette Syndrome is a two-sided coin. One side is that of the individual with the disorder, the point of view from which he sees the world. Then there’s the other side, the perspective of all those who are close to that individual.

Tourette can be an awkward thing to talk about. It’s gotten easier for me as the years go by, but when I was younger, it was the last thing I wanted to admit to myself, let alone other people. And yet, sometimes it’s just the elephant in the room, something you can’t just ignore. As a friend, it’s important to know how to address your friend’s Tourette delicately and honestly. It can strengthen your friendship, and it can build your friend like little else can.

Here is the third of 6 ways to love on your friends with the neurological disorder, Tourette Syndrome (TS), as told by someoneone with Tourette:


If You’re Close to Someone with Tourette…


Now, I mean this in a non-creepy way. As with all physical touch, it needs to be administered in response to the situation and the personal preferences of your friend.

For example, If you’re two guys hanging out at a sports bar, and your friend has a ticcing fit, it’s probably a bad idea to gently put your hand on his. There’s a good chance he’ll either disown you or deck you. Also, if your friend is of the opposite sex, you want to make sure you’re not sending unwanted signals about the relationship. Still, physical contact, when wisely given, can be subtle and encouraging.

Anxiety AttackIn my article on anxiety attacks, I talk about how physical touch has been scientifically proven to lower stress. Remember that most tics worsen with anxiety. This means that simply putting your hand on your friend’s shoulder can wordlessly send the message that you’re there for her. Clapping your buddy kindly on the shoulder can be a manly way of showing encouragement. If the situation is appropriate, a hug can work miracles.

A physical signal of reassurance is great not only because it can help lower stress, but also because it’s a way of saying you’re there for your friend without having to announce it to everyone in the room. It means you’ve got her back, and you know she’s going through a hard time.

Obviously, it would be weird if some of my friends did this to me, but my husband and my mom have something they do when we’re in public and they can sense my tics getting worse. They’ll gently take my hand and just lightly rub the top of my hand or wrist. It’s not attention grabbing because we’re obviously family, and it’s a small enough motion to not be noticed by many people. And yet, the physical stimulation, combined with their encouragement, can really help when my tics are having a field day during church.

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