Johnny Depp has Tourette’s? A real sufferers verdict

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Please note: Articles on lived experiences can be a trigger for those with tics, OCD and anxiety disorders. Articles are intended to show we aren’t alone, and that help can improve quality of life.

Johnny Depp has caused speculation in recent months about a possible Tourette diagnosis.

It emerged during one of his court appearances, in which he apologised for- or rather blamed having- Tourette’s syndrome.

Check out the 5.26 mark of the below clip from the recent defamation trial.

What was said about Tourette

Heard’s Lawyer: ‘How did Miss Heard’s actions on May 27th 2016 affect you?’

Depp: ‘Changed everything’

Heard’s Lawyer: ‘Objection, Your Honour’

Depp: ‘Oh, it didn’t change everything? Sorry’ (starts to laugh)

Judge: ‘Sir if you could wait til the objection please’

Depp: ‘Yes, yes, I’m sorry I err… Tourette’s’

 

Genuine, or joke?

This may seem like a genuine admission to those unfamiliar with the condition.

For the Tourette community, it comes with a giant red flag. 

We are very familiar with such attempts at humour. An attempt to get away with saying something controversial, inaccurate or just plain rude.

From the classroom, to (unbelievably) a defamation trial… Tourette is constantly used as a get out of jail free card.

How do we know Johnny Depp hasn't got Tourette's?

Some common sense has to be used here. Over the decades of appearances and televised interviews, Depp seems to lack the symptoms required for a Tourette diagnosis.

For a Tourette diagnosis, one needs to have at least two motor tics and one vocal tic, frequently occurring for more than one year.

Considering how much screen time Depp has- in the trials alone- these symptoms have been absent.

But what if he hides it well?

Many people with the disorder can supress tics, and often do in social situations. 

According to this LA Times article from 1993, Depp’s parents believed he may have had Tourette’s as a child.

“I made odd noises as a child,” he says. “Just did weird things, like turn off light switches twice. I think my parents thought I had Tourette’s syndrome.” Some of those tendencies have lingered: “I always have this fear if I’m in the theater that I’ll suddenly stand up and scream or run up on stage. Or if I’m walking down the street with a pal. ‘My God, that pole back there, we have to go back and walk around it.’ I think it’s normal. Isn’t it?”

Snippet from a Los Angeles Times article on Johnny Depp- Dec 12th, 1993

The problem here is that Tourette symptoms can vary wildly, not to mention overlap with other conditions. 

Today this is still very much the case, with progress moving at a snails pace.

Odd noises could be tics. Turning off the light switch twice could be Tourettic-OCD. Walking around a pole could be OCD. 

Without a diagnosis, this brief insight into Depp’s behaviours can only be speculated on. 

 

Depp's delivery does not seem involuntary

Tics are often describes as involuntary, due to the internal urge or pressure to produce a sound or movement. 

As seen in many sufferers, a sudden, intense action is carried out. These often appear ‘random’ or ‘out of the blue’. 

Depp’s response to the lawyer was a calculated one.

When asked how Heard’s actions on May 27th 2016 affected him, he paused, reflected and provided a reasonable response. It was intentional, expected and required in trial.

 

Verdict

Johnny Depp probably doesn’t have Tourette syndrome. His ‘odd’ behaviours as a child may suggest neurodivergent behaviour, but without a diagnosis it seems this case is closed.

There isn’t enough evidence on camera to suggest he has tics, motor nor vocal.

The syndrome continues to be misdiagnosed, misrepresented and joked about, to the extent that ‘does Johnny Depp have Tourette’s?’ is a trending topic.

Thankfully, we can answer this one confidently.

 

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DISCLAIMER: Articles contain lived experiences, but cannot be used to diagnose. Medical advice can only come from trained professionals. 

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