The Cursing Disease
Tourette Syndrome was named for George Gilles de la Tourette, who first discovered the syndrome in 1885. Today there is still a mystery surrounding the disorder, it’s causes and it’s cures. But one of the biggest mysteries is an associated behavior called coprolalia. This symptom is the uncontrolled swearing or socially unacceptable utterances that some with Tourettes experience. Although despite the media’s fascination, Tourette syndrome is not the cursing disease many believe it to be.
This baffling neurological disorder is characterized by repetitive motor and/or vocal tics. The identifying symptom of TS seems to be tic disorders. “A tic is a brief, repetitive, purposeless, non-rhythmic un-voluntary movement or sound.”(Packer 1) Tics can be many things, movements, or sounds. They can be simple or complex, eye blinking, frowning, grunting or even coughing. Most believe Tourette syndrome to be rare, in fact that is not the case. It is actually one of the most common and under diagnosed and very misunderstood disorders. (Packer 1) The National Tourette Syndrome Association published estimates that suggested that Tourette Syndrome affected only 1 in every 10,000 people but now we have evidence suggesting that 2 to 3 out of every 100 children or teenagers may have some form of the disorder (Packer 2).
Like many conditions Tourettes is a spectrum disorder (TSN 1). That means that there is a broad variety of different symptoms and it varies from mild to severe. Not all patients of TS experience the same kinds of tic disorders.
One tic in particular is “coprolalia”. It is not required for diagnosis, but if the child or adult has it is likely to cause social embarrassment or problems (Packer 4). The term Coprolalia actually means the uncontrollable use of obscene language. There are also utterances of insults and racial comments (Bruun 41). This seems the most commonly recognized tic disorder of Tourettes. When most think of Tourette they automatically assume the random cussing. Actually this seems to be a rare symptom. “Coprolalia, the symptom that the general public associates most often with TS, and it is not common”(Bruun 41).
It only occurs it a small minority of TS individuals. The numbers are an estimated 5-30% as reported by the Tourette Syndrome Association in 1993. Some relate the coming on of an inappropriate word as hard to control as a sneeze. They can feel it coming on but are unable to control it even with medication (Michigan 1). One of the characteristics of coprolalia that sets it apart from just simply swearing is that words come out compulsively. Most often when a person is angry but even if they are just under stress (Kozlowski 1).
Causes of TS are still being debated and most leads are pointing to genetic factors. The understanding of it seems to be incomplete and unfinished. But in 1999 researchers announced that they had found evidence suggesting a link between chromosomes 4 and 8 and TS. Though there still is no clearly identified gene to date. So all they can conclude is if one parent has TS there is a 50/50 chance for the child to carry it unless it is liked by gender (Packer 5). A study done by Dr. Ruth Bruun indicated a tendency toward a decrease in severity as patients grow in age. All patients in the 50-60 age group had reported their TS as mild and patients in the 20 age group only 30% had reported all their symptoms as mild.
Effective treatment of TS eluded doctors until the discovery of the beneficial drug haloperidol in 1961. The new discoveries lead to a new and more effective approach to the treatment of TS symptoms. “Indirectly it changes their attitude from hopeless to hopeful” (Bruun 135). This drug was the first to be found consistent in helping control tics of TS patients and is the most widely prescribed. (Bruun 136)

The most common methods for dealing with coprolalia are substituting an inoffensive similar word and putting it in place of the otherwise obscene word. For example saying the word “fudge”, or “ship” instead of the obscene word. Or just holding it back if possible until you can release it in private. There are also medications that can reduce such tics. Dr. Sabrina Freeman notes, “professionals and TS parents must understand that coprolalia is a tic—a behavior that occurs because of a short circuit in the impulse control system, not a truly volitional act. It is as difficult to control as an eye blinking or a finger-tapping tic, and should not be punished.
In some cases the person with TS may argue that it simply cannot be controlled at all. In the book titled “My own *censored*”, by Lewis Crighton. He tells of his personal struggles with Coprolalia:
I just couldn’t help it and I knew it was coming but I also anticipated it. The woman was black and very large she was coming toward me, begging me. I blurted out “fat nigger”, not once but twice and although I know better, at that moment I didn’t. And I felt relieved but guilty and I wish I could tell you that’s why I said it. Just to feel that emotion. I just know it’s not so easily explained.

You can just imagine what kind of embarrassment you’d feel if all you could think of was harsh words in stressful situations. I can’t imagine how that person felt and discrimination and Coprolalia aren’t rare. It seems to happen on both ends as well. In Landsing Michigan, a grocery store fired an employee whose Tourettes syndrome causes him to swear at customers. The 22 year old utters obscenities particularly when under stress. He had been working for 10 months when he was fired after an outburst had offended some black customers. He is suing the company stating that he is protected under the disability act. (Court TV online). His lawyer claims that he can’t control it especially while under stress. And he is likely to say, the word, “nigger” when talking to African Americans as when he is talking to women and calling them, “bitch” (Michigan 1).
There are as well more mild cases of coprolalia. And one man who had found a way to control it. He just managed to channel it into what sounded like a smokers cough. Although he states it still makes him self-conscious (Rowley 76). Rowley also states that she knew a man who had TS for 45 years before he found out what it was by watching a PBS special (76). Remarkably this was not the only case in which I came across of a diagnosis by watching TV. And the website called, A doctor in your house.com, states that more people realize they have TS from watching television than from consulting a physician. Symptoms seem to range from the very mild to the most severe and in certain situations that vary from one case to the next. It seems it may be brought on by the stress from being in public or some just stress in any form.
It seems that nearly every child with TS can tell you heart-breaking stories of being ostracized by their peers, taunted, teased, and isolated. Childish cruelty is a reality that many Tourette kids must deal with on a daily basis. The Tourette Syndrome Association encourages children and parents to talk about their TS with their friends and classmates. They urge them to give a short talk to their class about what their specific condition is like and that way there is an understanding. This makes a lot of sense and will help to make them feel more comfortable (TSA).
The media has also found a fascination with Coprolalia. It has been featured in movies such as, Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, and What About Bob. Leading to the image of Tourette syndrome as the “cursing disease”. This is misleading as only a minority actually ever develops it. In this case the public’s image is largely due to media fascination with the more extreme or unusual cases. Some with Tourette find that difficult to watch. In this case a woman with Tourette finds it offending when a comment in the movie, What about Bob, strikes her anger. “I count it personally offensive for his lead character to have told the child in the movie that having Tourette was worse than dying” (Rowley 23). The TS individuals seem to understand that the syndrome is miss-portrayed as nothing but coprolalia. Although the public without the facts, is left to the medias education.
Because of the fact it is socially outrageous it is often exploited for shock comedic effect in the media. As a result it seems many people believe it to be just that. This misconception furthers the development of a more complete public understanding of the disorder. This seems to be the goal of TS organization groups such as the Tourrette Syndrome Association. They recently held a dinner benefit for TS research. Attending were stars such as John Lithgow the star from TV’s Third Rock from the Sun. “I am honored that I can help people understand what Tourette is, because so often it’s even a mystery to those that have it”, Lithgow commented (Health News). Some can see the media as a blessing as well. Janet Ungar the executive director takes an interesting view on media. “Sometimes there are unfair portrayals, but generally, we love the media attention because of the extraordinary awareness it generates. Hollywood has given us the opportunity to educate thousands of people who would otherwise know nothing”(Health News).
Today people with TS are probing their excellence in many different fields. Among these are several well-known sports figures. Mahmound Abudul Rauf of Louisiana State University basketball and an All American in 1988 has TS. And although he often complains that he has difficulties getting ready for the games. Things such as getting dressed and tying his shoes sometimes pose as a problem. But when he plays the game you can see it doesn’t hinder his athletic ability. (Bruun 158)
In the March 16, 1992 edition of the New Yorker magazine, Dr. Oliver Sacks told the true story of a Canadian surgeon with severe Tourette’s symptoms. Dr. Sacks wrote:
We find people with Tourette’s sometimes the most severe Tourette’s in virtually every walk of life. There are Tourettic writers, mathematicians, musicians, actors, dj’s, construction worker, mechanics, and great athletes. Some things, one might think, would be completely out of the question-above all, perhaps, the intricate, precise, and steady work of a surgeon. This would have been my own belief not so long ago. But now, improbably, I know five surgeons with Tourette’s.

In conclusion there are plenty of people with Tourette that have extremely successful lives, both with and without medication. Following the media you can find truth, lies, and injustice. And there will be those who read this and become thankful and feel so privileged to have a normal life. The fact is no one really has a truly “normal” life. A person’s aspiration should be encouraged that are as high as a person’s natural ability and talents deserve. With greater understanding and improved treatment, life with Tourette syndrome will become easier and happier.






The Cursing Disease


Tourette Syndrome was named for George Gilles de la Tourette, who first discovered the syndrome in 1885. Today there is still a mystery surrounding the disorder, it’s causes and it’s cures. But one of the biggest mysteries is an associated behavior called coprolalia. This symptom is the uncontrolled swearing or socially unacceptable utterances that some with Tourettes experience. Although despite the media’s fascination, Tourette syndrome is not the cursing disease many believe it to be.
This baffling neurological disorder is characterized by repetitive motor and/or vocal tics. The identifying symptom of TS seems to be tic disorders. “A tic is a brief, repetitive, purposeless, non-rhythmic un-voluntary movement or sound.”(Packer 1) Tics can be many things, movements, or sounds. They can be simple or complex, eye blinking, frowning, grunting or even coughing. Most believe Tourette syndrome to be rare, in fact that is not the case. It is actually one of the most common and under diagnosed and very misunderstood disorders. (Packer 1) The National Tourette Syndrome Association published estimates that suggested that Tourette Syndrome affected only 1 in every 10,000 people but now we have evidence suggesting that 2 to 3 out of every 100 children or teenagers may have some form of the disorder (Packer 2).
Like many conditions Tourettes is a spectrum disorder (TSN 1). That means that there is a broad variety of different symptoms and it varies from mild to severe. Not all patients of TS experience the same kinds of tic disorders.
One tic in particular is “coprolalia”. It is not required for diagnosis, but if the child or adult has it is likely to cause social embarrassment or problems (Packer 4). The term Coprolalia actually means the uncontrollable use of obscene language. There are also utterances of insults and racial comments (Bruun 41). This seems the most commonly recognized tic disorder of Tourettes. When most think of Tourette they automatically assume the random cussing. Actually this seems to be a rare symptom. “Coprolalia, the symptom that the general public associates most often with TS, and it is not common”(Bruun 41).
It only occurs it a small minority of TS individuals. The numbers are an estimated 5-30% as reported by the Tourette Syndrome Association in 1993. Some relate the coming on of an inappropriate word as hard to control as a sneeze. They can feel it coming on but are unable to control it even with medication (Michigan 1). One of the characteristics of coprolalia that sets it apart from just simply swearing is that words come out compulsively. Most often when a person is angry but even if they are just under stress (Kozlowski 1).
Causes of TS are still being debated and most leads are pointing to genetic factors. The understanding of it seems to be incomplete and unfinished. But in 1999 researchers announced that they had found evidence suggesting a link between chromosomes 4 and 8 and TS. Though there still is no clearly identified gene to date. So all they can conclude is if one parent has TS there is a 50/50 chance for the child to carry it unless it is liked by gender (Packer 5). A study done by Dr. Ruth Bruun indicated a tendency toward a decrease in severity as patients grow in age. All patients in the 50-60 age group had reported their TS as mild and patients in the 20 age group only 30% had reported all their symptoms as mild.
Effective treatment of TS eluded doctors until the discovery of the beneficial drug haloperidol in 1961. The new discoveries lead to a new and more effective approach to the treatment of TS symptoms. “Indirectly it changes their attitude from hopeless to hopeful” (Bruun 135). This drug was the first to be found consistent in helping control tics of TS patients and is the most widely prescribed. (Bruun 136)

The most common methods for dealing with coprolalia are substituting an inoffensive similar word and putting it in place of the otherwise obscene word. For example saying the word “fudge”, or “ship” instead of the obscene word. Or just holding it back if possible until you can release it in private. There are also medications that can reduce such tics. Dr. Sabrina Freeman notes, “professionals and TS parents must understand that coprolalia is a tic—a behavior that occurs because of a short circuit in the impulse control system, not a truly volitional act. It is as difficult to control as an eye blinking or a finger-tapping tic, and should not be punished.
In some cases the person with TS may argue that it simply cannot be controlled at all. In the book titled “My own *censored*”, by Lewis Crighton. He tells of his personal struggles with Coprolalia:
I just couldn’t help it and I knew it was coming but I also anticipated it. The woman was black and very large she was coming toward me, begging me. I blurted out “fat nigger”, not once but twice and although I know better, at that moment I didn’t. And I felt relieved but guilty and I wish I could tell you that’s why I said it. Just to feel that emotion. I just know it’s not so easily explained.

You can just imagine what kind of embarrassment you’d feel if all you could think of was harsh words in stressful situations. I can’t imagine how that person felt and discrimination and Coprolalia aren’t rare. It seems to happen on both ends as well. In Landsing Michigan, a grocery store fired an employee whose Tourettes syndrome causes him to swear at customers. The 22 year old utters obscenities particularly when under stress. He had been working for 10 months when he was fired after an outburst had offended some black customers. He is suing the company stating that he is protected under the disability act. (Court TV online). His lawyer claims that he can’t control it especially while under stress. And he is likely to say, the word, “nigger” when talking to African Americans as when he is talking to women and calling them, “bitch” (Michigan 1).
There are as well more mild cases of coprolalia. And one man who had found a way to control it. He just managed to channel it into what sounded like a smokers cough. Although he states it still makes him self-conscious (Rowley 76). Rowley also states that she knew a man who had TS for 45 years before he found out what it was by watching a PBS special (76). Remarkably this was not the only case in which I came across of a diagnosis by watching TV. And the website called, A doctor in your house.com, states that more people realize they have TS from watching television than from consulting a physician. Symptoms seem to range from the very mild to the most severe and in certain situations that vary from one case to the next. It seems it may be brought on by the stress from being in public or some just stress in any form.
It seems that nearly every child with TS can tell you heart-breaking stories of being ostracized by their peers, taunted, teased, and isolated. Childish cruelty is a reality that many Tourette kids must deal with on a daily basis. The Tourette Syndrome Association encourages children and parents to talk about their TS with their friends and classmates. They urge them to give a short talk to their class about what their specific condition is like and that way there is an understanding. This makes a lot of sense and will help to make them feel more comfortable (TSA).
The media has also found a fascination with Coprolalia. It has been featured in movies such as, Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, and What About Bob. Leading to the image of Tourette syndrome as the “cursing disease”. This is misleading as only a minority actually ever develops it. In this case the public’s image is largely due to media fascination with the more extreme or unusual cases. Some with Tourette find that difficult to watch. In this case a woman with Tourette finds it offending when a comment in the movie, What about Bob, strikes her anger. “I count it personally offensive for his lead character to have told the child in the movie that having Tourette was worse than dying” (Rowley 23). The TS individuals seem to understand that the syndrome is miss-portrayed as nothing but coprolalia. Although the public without the facts, is left to the medias education.
Because of the fact it is socially outrageous it is often exploited for shock comedic effect in the media. As a result it seems many people believe it to be just that. This misconception furthers the development of a more complete public understanding of the disorder. This seems to be the goal of TS organization groups such as the Tourrette Syndrome Association. They recently held a dinner benefit for TS research. Attending were stars such as John Lithgow the star from TV’s Third Rock from the Sun. “I am honored that I can help people understand what Tourette is, because so often it’s even a mystery to those that have it”, Lithgow commented (Health News). Some can see the media as a blessing as well. Janet Ungar the executive director takes an interesting view on media. “Sometimes there are unfair portrayals, but generally, we love the media attention because of the extraordinary awareness it generates. Hollywood has given us the opportunity to educate thousands of people who would otherwise know nothing”(Health News).
Today people with TS are probing their excellence in many different fields. Among these are several well-known sports figures. Mahmound Abudul Rauf of Louisiana State University basketball and an All American in 1988 has TS. And although he often complains that he has difficulties getting ready for the games. Things such as getting dressed and tying his shoes sometimes pose as a problem. But when he plays the game you can see it doesn’t hinder his athletic ability. (Bruun 158)
In the March 16, 1992 edition of the New Yorker magazine, Dr. Oliver Sacks told the true story of a Canadian surgeon with severe Tourette’s symptoms. Dr. Sacks wrote:
We find people with Tourette’s sometimes the most severe Tourette’s in virtually every walk of life. There are Tourettic writers, mathematicians, musicians, actors, dj’s, construction worker, mechanics, and great athletes. Some things, one might think, would be completely out of the question-above all, perhaps, the intricate, precise, and steady work of a surgeon. This would have been my own belief not so long ago. But now, improbably, I know five surgeons with Tourette’s.

In conclusion there are plenty of people with Tourette that have extremely successful lives, both with and without medication. Following the media you can find truth, lies, and injustice. And there will be those who read this and become thankful and feel so privileged to have a normal life. The fact is no one really has a truly “normal” life. A person’s aspiration should be encouraged that are as high as a person’s natural ability and talents deserve. With greater understanding and improved treatment, life with Tourette syndrome will become easier and happier.
















 
 
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