There are many misconceptions about Tourette syndrome (TS), often spread by its portrayal in the media. For example, many people think that Tourette’s involves swearing uncontrollably, but that only happens in a small number of people with the condition.

In reality, Tourette’s is a neurological condition that affects the brain. Usually, it starts in childhood or teenage years. Its characteristic trait is muscular or vocal tics, which are uncontrollable, sudden movements or sounds. Frequently, people with Tourette’s also have other medical or behavioral conditions.

Here, we present some facts and statistics about Tourette Syndrome. With greater awareness, people with Tourette’s and those who know them can understand the condition better and find help easier.

How Common Is Tourette Syndrome (TS)?

Since many people with Tourette’s are not diagnosed correctly, it is hard to say exactly how common Tourette Syndrome is. One estimate says that about 0.6% of children, or 1 in every 162 kids, has Tourette’s. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 360 kids, or about 0.3% of children, had a diagnosis of Tourette’s, meaning that only about half of children with Tourette’s are diagnosed.

The prevalence of Tourette Syndrome is much higher in boys than in girls. Boys are 3 to 4 times as likely to have Tourette’s as girls. Adolescents 12 years or older are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Tourette’s as children aged 6 to 11. Tourette’s is more common in non-Hispanic white children than children of other ethnicities.

Diagnosing Tourette’s

There are no specialized tests to diagnose Tourette Syndrome. Usually, Tourette’s is diagnosed by a family doctor during a routine checkup. During this checkup, the doctor will ask questions to determine what kind of tics a child has, how often they occur and how long the child has had them.

Like other neurological conditions, Tourette syndrome is diagnosed according to guidelines established by the American Psychiatric Association. These guidelines are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Diagnostic criteria for Tourette Syndrome include:

  • Multiple motor tics and one or more vocal tics (not necessarily at the same time)
  • Tics have lasted for more than one year (though they can increase and decrease in frequency)
  • Tics started before the age of 18
  • Tics are not caused by a drug or other medical condition

Tics can start as early as age 4, but a diagnosis can only be made after the child has had tics for at least one year.

Course of Tourette Syndrome

Fortunately, most children eventually outgrow Tourette’s, and tics rarely last into adulthood. Usually, tics start appearing between ages 5–7 and peak around age 8–12. By early adulthood, the severity of tics is significantly reduced in about three-quarters of people with Tourette’s, while over one-third are completely tic-free. Since Tourette’s usually doesn’t last long into adulthood, its prognosis is favorable.

Rates of Tourette’s and Co-Occurring Conditions

Other medical conditions, especially other neurological disorders, are common among people with Tourette’s. Of children diagnosed with Tourette’s, 86% are diagnosed with other behavioral, mental health, or developmental disorders.

The rates of common co-occurring conditions among Tourette’s patients vary:

Public Health Impact of Tourette’s

Tourette’s can require significant healthcare costs for patients with the condition. Costs can come from:

  • Doctor appointments
  • Medications
  • Counseling or therapy sessions
  • Educational accommodations

The long-term impact of Tourette’s on a child’s mental and physical health and education can also have negative effects on their employment, social life and family relationships.

The full public health impact of Tourette’s is not fully understood. Fortunately, as public awareness of Tourette Syndrome increases, medical professionals learn more about the condition and the best ways to manage it.

Statistics on Tourette’s Treatment

Tics are usually mild, and the vast majority of Tourette’s cases do not need to be treated medically. However, tics should be addressed if they are interfering with a person’s daily life. Treatment for Tourette’s may involve medication to control impulsive behaviors, along with counseling and physical or occupational therapy. The outcome of this treatment is usually a reduction in the frequency or severity of tics. However, Tourette’s cannot be cured, and tics typically do not go away entirely with treatment.

Early Treatment Outcomes

Rather than medical treatment, Tourette’s is usually managed with educational interventions.  About half of children with Tourette’s have an individual education plan (IEP) at their school to help with learning challenges. As of today, not much is known of the full impact of early intervention for Tourette Syndrome. However, early treatment does seem to improve the learning, behavioral and emotional effects of the disease.

If you or someone you love is affected by Tourette Syndrome and substance abuse, please contact us at The Recovery Village. We offer comprehensive treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions at reputable centers across the country.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Tourette Syndrome (TS) Data & Statistics.” October 1, 2018. Accessed April 20, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Prevalence of Diagnosed Tourette Syndrome in Persons Aged 6–17 Years — United States, 2007.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 5, 2009. Accessed April 20, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Tourette Syndrome (TS) Bridging the Public Health Gap.” April 13, 2018. Accessed April 20, 2019.

Claussen AH, Bitsko RH, Holbrook JR, Bloomfield J, Giordano K. Impact of Tourette Syndrome on School Measures in a Nationally Representative Sample.” Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, May 2018. Accessed April 20, 2019.

American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” May 2013. Accessed April 20, 2019.

Bloch MH, Leckman JF. Clinical course of Tourette syndrome.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, December 2009. Accessed April 20, 2019.

Tourette Association of America. “Living with Tourette & Tic Disorders: A Guide for Patients and Families.” Accessed April 20, 2019.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet.” July 6, 2018. Accessed April 20, 2019.