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Tourette’s Disorder Symptoms

The essential features of Tourette’s disorder are multiple motor tics and one or more vocal tics, expressing themselves many times a day for at least 1 year. These may appear simultaneously or at different periods during the illness.

The anatomical location, number, frequency, complexity, and severity of the tics change over time. The tics typically involve the head and, frequently, other parts of the body, such as the torso and upper and lower limbs. The vocal tics include various words or sounds such as clicks, grunts, yelps, barks, sniffs, snorts, and coughs.

Coprolalia, a complex vocal tic involving the uttering of obscenities, is present in a few individuals (less than 10%) with this disorder.

Complex motor tics involving touching, squatting, deep knee bends, retracing steps, and twirling when walking may be present. In approximately one-half the individuals with this disorder, the first symptoms to appear are bouts of a single tic; most frequently, eye blinking; less frequently, tics involving another part of the face or the body. Initial symptoms can also include tongue protrusion, squatting, sniffing, hopping, skipping, throat clearing, stuttering, uttering sounds or words, and coprolalia. The other cases begin with multiple symptoms.

Specific Symptoms of Tourette’s Disorder

  • Both multiple motor and one or more vocal tics have been present at some time during the illness, although not necessarily concurrently. (A tic is a sudden, rapid, recurrent, nonrhythmic, stereotyped motor movement or vocalization.)
  • The tics occur many times a day (usually in bouts) nearly every day or intermittently throughout a period of more than 1 year, and during this period there was never a tic-free period of more than 3 consecutive months.
  • The disturbance causes marked distress or significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • The onset is before age 18 years.
  • The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., stimulants) or a general medical condition (e.g., Huntington’s disease or postviral encephalitis).


John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2019). Tourette’s Disorder Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 22, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/disorders/tourettes-disorder-symptoms/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Oct 2019 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Oct 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.