Sharon Osbourne, a 66-year-old TV personality has reportedly said “Sometimes I think I have Tourette’s without too much swearing.”
I have never met Sharon Osbourne, but I am willing to bet she doesn’t have Tourette’s.
First things first, you don’t have to swear to have Tourette’s. Most people – between 75 and 90 percent of people with Tourette’s – don’t experience coprolalia.
Secondly, Sharon Osborne doesn’t have Tourette’s. What she has is a condition called “verbal diarrhoea” – an affliction that causes people to talk utter crap.
Thirdly, everyone needs to stop using Tourette’s as an excuse for bad language.
Bad language and Tourette’s are not synonymous.
I have had numerous people tell me they think they or their boyfriend/partner/cat has Tourette’s because they swear so much. But swearing is a small part of an incredibly complicated condition – a condition which can be the source of physical pain, isolation, and unemployment, a condition which causes much more motor tics than it does vocal, a condition which has been ridiculed by celebrities and non-celebrities for far too long.
It’s time to stop using Tourette’s as an excuse for poor behaviour. If you really think you have Tourette’s – if your body and voice are doing things out of your control – then see your GP. If you think you swear a bit too much, then maybe just chill out.
Tic attacks, tic fits, tic status, whatever you want to call it, they suck in a serious way. Imagine being unable to control your body or voice for hours on end. Imagine hitting your head against the wall, grunting, throwing objects, breaking stuff, jerking your arms, constantly writhing and shaking, falling to the floor when you try to walk, not being able to string a sentence together without your Tourette’s interrupting it with all sorts of random expletives.
I’m in week three of a job at an advertising agency. I love the place. They couldn’t be more supportive of my Tourette’s. They let me go home early if my tics are too disabling. They send me in a taxi if the Tube is too hard to handle. They let me take more frequent breaks. They have let everyone in the building I know about my condition so no one is alarmed or surprised when I suddenly let out a profanity.
The problem is my Tourette’s is bad at this job. I’ve had three tic attacks in three weeks which is unheard of for me. The problem is I don’t want to be seen as the sick, disabled employee who can’t handle a 9 to 5 workday like everyone else. I want to be well, to work consistently, to knuckle down like everyone else. The problem is I don’t want to have Tourette’s, and yet I do, there’s no cure, the treatments I have had have only alleviated some of my symptoms but by no means all of them.
It’s a big problem – one that, as of yet, can’t be resolved. All I can do now is be thankful that my employers are so understanding, be grateful that I have regular access to a neurologist, and be happy that my friends and family are supporting me through my Tourette’s – whatever it brings.
I was on BBC Radio London the other day talking about Tourette’s. You can listen to the programme here. I start speaking about 1hr 20 mins into the show, if you want to listen.
I was interviewed and filmed by the BBC about Tourette’s. You can find the article here, and listen to the radio show here.