Published - March 15, 2022

Disinhibition in Tourette’s Syndrome

by Lisa Rudge, Director of Parent Services

Tourette’s Syndrome is a complex neurological condition, characterised by involuntary movements and vocalisations called tics, however the condition involves much more than tics alone. Many of those with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS), may sometimes act or behave in a certain way that may go against what we deem socially acceptable. This is often referred to as disinhibition.  

These actions or behaviours may seem inappropriate, silly, tactless, rude or perhaps even offensive, but it is important to remember that they are not wilful or intended. Inhibition is a learned cognitive process that allows us to inhibit impulses and instead select appropriate actions. Those with TS may have an inconsistent ability to use their learned inhibitory control “in the moment”.  

Inhibition may be compared to the brains equivalent to a bicycle’s breaks. Those with TS may have difficulty applying the brain’s ‘breaks’, resulting in actions or behaviours that may seem inappropriate, or go against social norms. Disinhibition can impact tics, as often tics are susceptible to suggestion. Disinhibition may also affect a person’s ability to recognise any preliminary urge prior to a tic (this may affect the efficacy of not pharmacological treatments such as HRT and CBit).  

Disinhibition may also impact co-occurring conditions. For example, it may increase obsessive compulsive behaviours, may impact sensory integration challenges, and may affect emotional regulation. 

What can we do? 

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