Understanding Tourette’s Syndrome

Twitching leaves a person completely and utterly helpless. Muscle spasms occur randomly and cannot be controlled. For some individuals who have been diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, these spasms happen more frequently and can be a struggle to live with. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tourette’s Syndrome is a nervous system condition that causes tics. Typically, stressful situations worsen tics while relaxing situations tend to subdue the symptoms. Tics fall into two categories: motor and vocal. 

Motor tics are muscle spasms such as blinking or jerky movements in various parts of the body. When a person makes sounds with their voice, those are vocal tics. Examples of vocal tics include humming, clearing the throat, and yelling, or saying, a word or phrase. Usually, the first symptoms of Tourette’s surface around the ages five to ten. 

Tourette’s ranges from mild to severe, depending on the individual. The disorder can be manageable for some, but utterly debilitating for others. Severe symptoms interfere with school or work. Serious symptoms can hamper day-to-day function and communication as well. 

I have watched my twelve-year-old brother, Samuel “Sammy” Scepka, battle with Tourette’s Syndrome for the past four years. He has broken cups, mugs, and other objects due to his motor tics. At times, teachers scolded Sammy for acting up in class or making noise because they were unaware of his disorder. Other kids even used to bully him for being different or odd. It has been a struggle, but not an impossible one. Sammy grows stronger everyday and is learning to cope with this part of him.

Scientists do not know the root of this disorder, but research suggests that it could be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Oftentimes, children with Tourette’s also have been diagnosed with mental, behavioral, or developmental disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

Currently, there is no cure for Tourette’s, but therapy and medication are available to aid in managing the symptoms. Please remember to be kind to everyone because you may not know what they are dealing with internally. 

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