TS symptoms are highly unusual and thus easily misunderstood. Over the years, several misconceptions have become widespread.
Among them are:
MYTH: All people with TS swear and use obscene language -- Not True!!
FACT: Only a small minority of people have this symptom (called coprolalia), and from among those who do, most mask the offensive words, for example using "F... FINE" instead of . . . the four-letter word.
MYTH: People with TS suffer from mental illness -- Not True!!
FACT: Mental illnesses affect people with TS no more frequently than in the general population. Also, involuntary TS movements may lead some to mistakenly assume that individuals with TS are either drunk, on drugs or threatening.
MYTH: People with TS are possessed by the devil -- Not True!!
FACT: It has been said that some of the Salem "witches" were actually people with TS whose medical condition was tragically misunderstood. Periodically, interest in the rites of exorcism surfaces and with this renewed interest, people with neurological disorders like TS are considered candidates for this archaic ritual.
MYTH: People with TS can control their movements and sounds if they really wanted to and pointing out the symptoms will help people stop performing them -- Not True!!
FACT: TS symptoms are caused by a chemical imbalance in the wiring of the brain. The physical and vocal tics are completely involuntary, and can only be controlled for very short periods of time and then they must be released.
MYTH: People with TS are from certain groups -- Not True!!
FACT: TS is found among people from all ethnic groups.
MYTH: People with TS cannot hope to lead productive lives -- Not True!!
FACT: Most lead rich lives, participate in normal activities and have rewarding careers.
For more myths and a lot of additional information, read Elaine Fantle Shimberg's new book, "Living with Tourette Syndrome," Simon & Schuster, 1995.