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Tourette Syndrome

A Brief Overview
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is defined as a nervous system disorder in which twitches, movements, or unwanted sounds are experienced repeatedly. Generally speaking, people who have tics cannot stop their body from doing these things. The Center for Disease Control estimates that approximately 138,000 children suffer from TS in the United States and those impacted by TS often also experience Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder.

While medication has been the traditional treatment preference for individuals with TS, medication doesn’t always work and can cause unwanted side effects. Recent research suggests that Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics, or CBIT (pronounced see-bit), is a viable alternative treatment to medication management for individuals suffering from unwanted tics.

CBIT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that was developed to teach a people with tics to become aware of their behavior and help them change what they do in a very careful and systematic way. As with traditional CBT, CBIT treatment generally involves 8-10 sessions of about 50 minutes each. CBIT has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for children and adults with TS. While it is not a cure for TS, it has been shown to reduce the frequency of tics in children and adults.

During CBIT, a therapist helps an individual become more aware of their tic and the behavior leading up to the tic. Once this awareness is achieved, the therapist teaches the individual how to perform a different and carefully chosen behavior instead of the tic. The new behavior replaces and makes it difficult to perform the original tic. For example, a child with a frequent throat clearing tic could be taught to engage in slow rhythmic breathing whenever he or she felt the urge to clear his or her throat. This can effectively reduce or eliminate the original problem.

Since tics are often exacerbated by stressful situations, it is also important to work with a therapist to identify situations that trigger the tics and to develop healthy coping mechanisms. While the research may be recent, Brownback, Mason has been offering cognitive-behavioral help for tics for many years. If you are interested in finding out more about cognitive behavioral therapy for you or someone you know suffering from TS, please contact our office.

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