Tourette disorder is a neurological (brain) condition that usually begins in childhood. They are abrupt, purposeless, and involuntary vocal sounds or muscular jerks.
Back in school, a classmate would always be singled out for making odd noises, grunting in class, and just being fidgety at all times.
He was often bullied and mocked. While the school did try and help him, unfortunately, none of us made an effort to get to know him. Eventually, he left the school and moved elsewhere. I am not sure where he went or how he is faring now.
This incident came vividly back to my mind when I happened to watch the trailer the soon-to-be-released Hichki, starring Rani Mukherjee as the protagonist.
This protagonist suffers from a disorder called Tourette (too-RET) Disorder, and the tics she has in the film reminded me of that boy from all those years ago.
What is Tourette disorder?
Tourette disorder is a neurological (brain) condition that usually begins in childhood. They are abrupt, purposeless, and involuntary vocal sounds or muscular jerks. Motor and vocal tics may be simple (i.e. involving only a few muscles or sounds at a time) or complex (i.e. involving multiple muscles, or full sentences and phrases).
What are the symptoms?
Constant blinking, raising eyebrows, nostrils flaring, opening the mouth, sticking out the tongue, shrugging shoulders, jerking arms, clenching the fists, kicking, curling of the toes etc.
Vocalisations such as grunts, sniffing, throat clearing, squealing, snorting, clicking, hissing, or moaning are some of the symptoms that the patient may be experiencing.
We at The Better India spoke to Dr Roma Kumar, who is a Clinical Psychologist with over 30 years of experience. She is a Senior Consultant at the Institute of Child Health at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi since 1991 and the Max Super Specialty Hospital Gurgaon since April 2012.
“This syndrome leads to involuntary movements that are beyond the control of the patient. In some cases, it has a neuro-biological component, and sometimes they are just behavioural symptoms.”
When asked about what the trigger might be, Dr Kumar said, “Very often they are stressors which cause these tics. I see many young patients who come to me with this issue. It usually starts somewhere around grade 4.”
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Speaking about the importance of seeking help, she said, “Parents come to us after they have done a battery of tests on the child and that automatically means that a lot of time has been spent on that. I would urge parents to come visit a psychologist and psychiatrist as soon as one notices the tics.”
“Trying to understand what the stressors are that is causing this is the first step towards recovery. Family dynamics and school pressures often play a crucial role,” she said.
While this syndrome manifests itself in a seemingly superficial manner, the reality is far from it. If not treated in time the disorder can manifest itself in various forms.
With the right treatment and counselling, these tics and impulses can be reduced with time and in some cases, eliminated.
While addressing the physical aspect is one part of the treatment it is essential that the patient also seek counselling because they often require psychological support as well.
It is good to see, especially through cinema, there is rising awareness about this disorder and people treat it with the right understanding and knowledge.