For decades now the assumption has been that Tourette’s sufferers swear a lot. It has led to numerous comedy skits and is the reason so many people have heard about the condition.
Only 10% of Tourette’s sufferers swear, meaning nine out of ten people with TS do not relate to the stereotype. This compulsion to curse has its own name, Coprolalia.
I want this post to help people understand what Tourette’s really is, and help the condition be taken seriously.
Afterall, it is a pretty miserable condition to have despite being used in comedy for decades.
How did the stereotype come about?
I don’t think a certain date can be marked as the one that birthed the myth. But there are a few reasons as to how this has occurred.
When I was in high school I remember watching a comedy sketch on someone’s phone. This video consisted of an animated character being driven home from school by his dad. The kid began to insult his dad by swearing and cursing, claiming he had Tourette’s. It’s safe to say the dad wasn’t happy.
Now I don’t doubt the kid in this sketch had tics, he did struggle to hold them in. I’ve seen far worse ‘attempts’ of humour on TikTok from people pretending to have the condition and failing badly.
Anyways this video went viral and I heard people talking about Tourette’s a lot more after that.
Over the same period, numerous documentaries were broadcast about the condition, usually focusing on those that shouted profanities and obscene remarks and gestures. This was fuel for the fire in the 90’s and 00’s.
People that have a strong urge to swear have a condition known as Coprolalia.
If only 10% of people with TS swear, what do the other 90% do?
The weird and wonderful world of Tourette’s means the opportunities are endless.
Some people blink, some people clap their hands. Some people cough when they don’t need to, others touch the floor. Any movement or sound you can think of can become a tic, and these tics can change over time.
Tics involving movement are ‘Motor’ tics, and sounds are classed as ‘Vocal’ tics.
For a better understanding of these, I would recommend taking a look at my page Understanding Motor and Vocal Tics. This will be linked at the bottom of the post if you want to read when you’re finished here.
Are there many other myths surrounding Tourette’s Syndrome?
Hmm… good question. I believe swearing is the most widespread one, and many others with be attached to this.
One being people with Tourette’s are angry, or mean. This is not true.
Of course there is nothing stopping someone with the condition from being mean, but the shouting isn’t really a choice. Those that do shout insults or profanities don’t want to. They just feel they have to before they can relax.
I am sure anyone that does shout things feels really embarrassed by doing so, and may even feel vulnerable in case of retaliation.
Another myth would be those with TS are attention seeking. This again is not true.
Until Tourette’s is given the attention it deserves, there will be people that refuse to believe it is real.
Someone shouting things on a packed commuter train may seem attention seeking, but inside they will want nothing more than for the world to swallow them up.
Often the phrases used are one that aren’t very pleasant, the opposite of what an attention seeker would like everyone to hear.
How we can help understand TS better
The most effective way we can help provide a better insight to the syndrome is to keep talking about it. People with Coprolalia need a voice (pun intended) but there needs to be more coverage of those with other tics, too.
Afterall, it seems like 10% of TS sufferers get 90% of the airtime.
More stories from those with other motor and vocal tics, and more articles separating the myths from the facts.
It is getting better, as more and more people are able to share their stories on social media.
Two example are:
Tourette’s Hero. Jessica has motor tics and vocal tics, however ‘Biscuit’ is the word she shouts quite frequently.
Tourette’s Cop: @tourettescop on Instagram, the US Police Officer also has motor and vocal tics. Thankfully swearing isn’t one of them on whilst on duty!
Why do people with Tourette’s swear? Conclusion
Why do people with Tourette’s swear? Because they feel a strong need to. But only those with Coprolalia do so.
Cursing is a symptom of Tourette’s Syndrome, but isn’t the only symptom.
As I state in my post What is Tourette’s Syndrome?, to say that everyone with Tourette’s swears is like saying everyone in the world is European. Some, yes… but not all!
Those that do shout profanities don’t want to. It is an involuntary urge that arises that can usually only be relieved by carrying out the tic. Compassion is needed here and there is never an aim to offend or upset anyone.
It is important for us in the TS community to help provide the facts and clear up any misconceptions. It is a bizarre condition to have and one that can affect those around them, but is still uncontrollable.
Hopefully more and more people will come to understand that Tourette’s is more than just cursing all the time.
And of course, any help with this is greatly appreciated.