Tourette syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by multiple and repetitive motor and phonic tics persisting for more than one year. Symptoms begin in childhood, with an estimated 1 in 100 people affected. Both genetic and environmental factors are believed to contribute to the development of Tourette syndrome.
Tics are sudden, rapid movements or vocalisations, which are often experienced as involuntary. Although most people with Tourette syndrome can suppress their tics for variable durations, this is often reported to cause considerable discomfort. Whilst brief tics are classified as simple (e.g. eye blinking, throat clearing), other more complex tics can take longer to perform and may include a combination of simple tics. Examples of complex tics include actions such as: repeating sounds, words or phrases, uttering socially inappropriate words or using obscene gestures, touching other people and things, and self-injurious behaviours like hitting oneself.
Tourette syndrome can be disabling, with some people experiencing social isolation, bullying, interpersonal conflict, psychological distress and disruption to attendance of school or work and achievement of personal goals. Pharmacotherapy usually involves anti-psychotic medication, which can also present a burden of adverse side effects to children.