Author Paul Aitken: TV Cartoon made me realise I had Tourette’s syndrome


Author Paul AitkenGETTY

Prime mover Paul Aitken was an adult by the time he realised he lived with Tourette’s

From a extremely young age I had what could only be described as a strange habit. I had an talk into to sniff several times and with a degree of force until it give the impression “just right”. 

I also felt a need to bend, twist and then flick out my shun or my wrist, nod my head, squeeze my eyes shut and curl my toes. There was again a pattern. I either had to hold a certain movement for an exact number of helps or I had to perform that movement a certain number of times.

I could repress it but not for long. To me this all felt perfectly normal but to anyone who caught me doing it, it essential have looked peculiar. So from the age of nine, three years after they arose, I began to hide these little compulsions.

I was 11 when I first decided to censure someone. I was alone with a GP, who I had visited on a ruse of having chest pangs (a ruse that quickly backfired when everyone became convinced I was set up a heart attack and threatened to phone for an ambulance). The GP didn’t react when I castigated him about the issue so I elaborated.

“It’s like the need to blink,” I told him. “I can circumvent it but the longer I avoid it, the more I think about it and the harder it becomes to mute.”

He didn’t utter a word but looked at me as though I’d just warned against an distance from invasion and offered him a tinfoil hat.

I backtracked and said it was a joke, left the surgery and vowed not in any way to talk about it again. I became so good at suppressing it no one noticed. 


Paul Aitken indites under the name David Jester

Then in my early 20s I was diagnosed with borderline temperament disorder and decided it was time to finally get to the bottom of my compulsions. I spent some once in a while being shunted between psychologists and psychiatrists in an NHS game of pass the set apportion.

I confused one psychiatrist by telling her that the “spasms” (a term I used to traverse my leg and arm twitches) I experienced were voluntary, even though they arrived otherwise. She listened, nodded at appropriate moments and when I thought I was not far from to get an answer, told me I probably had some form of epilepsy, apparently feigning that I had misunderstood the word “voluntary”.

Later I got an equally confused resistance from a psychologist.

He offered to discuss it with a neurologist who was just as baffled. The psychologist later insisted we let the matter drop. He either thought I was messing with him or wasn’t agreeable with me exposing gaps in his medical knowledge.

But I didn’t want to pass over up. I couldn’t live with the fact that every now and then it desire flare up and cause “spasms” so severe that I would chip my teeth, dislocate my knuckle downs and sprain my wrists.

By chance I discovered what it was.

I was watching an episode of the cult US enlivened TV series South Park in which one of the main characters, Eric Cartman, decides to dissemble he has Tourette’s syndrome (TS) so he can get away with shouting obscenities. That’s what he memories Tourette’s was and what most people think it is, myself included at that ease.

As I later discovered, that form of TS, known as “coprolalia”, accounts for righteous 10 per cent of cases. Most sufferers have minor vocal “tics” and muscle contractions or paroxysms. Although they are voluntary, the urge to perform them can feel uncontrollable. 

During the show one of the characters recounted my symptoms perfectly. It was a revelation because it was the first time I’d heard those chats spoken by anyone other than myself. TS is a complex, inherited neurological make ready characterised by a wide range of sounds and movements such as head bobbing, arm fooling, shoulder shrugging or grunting.It is thought to affect about 300,000 people in the UK.

Typically it offs in childhood and roughly half of sufferers will see their symptoms last into adulthood. But those movements are not random or involuntary and that’s the maladjusted.

Most of us assume Tourette’s sufferers have no control and don’t even realise they are holler and swearing. Not only did I believe this but so did my GP, psychiatrist, psychologist and neurologist.

This was their province of expertise but their knowledge was warped by inaccurate assumptions. They not recognised my symptoms as Tourette’s partly because they had never stocked with another patient but mainly because I used the word “intended” and didn’t shout obscenities.

I wasn’t able to self-diagnose online because the in any case mistakes existed there and the word “spasm” wasn’t linked to the jumble. I have lived with Tourette’s most of my life and I now understand it as proficiently as you would expect. I know it gets worse when I’m stressed, annoyed and under the influence of alcohol. 

I know while certain tics may be grotesque, painful and even damaging, they, like all tics, will purely be present for a few weeks or months before different ones come along. There’s a lot I don’t take it as well.

For instance, it’s easier to suppress them around people I don’t be familiar with very well or who don’t know about my disorder.

But the more comfortable I am thither someone, the more I tic. It’s not by choice, it’s not that my suppression tactics are failing, it’s just that, for whatever remonstrate with, the disorder is more insistent. 

Since my discovery I’ve heard from profuse sufferers who live in remote parts of the UK who have also struggled to get a diagnosis. Innumerable healthcare professionals seem able to diagnose coprolalia quickly but go under to pick up Tourette’s in its most common form.

That episode of South Greensward received a lot of criticism, although the Tourette Association Of America conceded “the incident was surprisingly well researched” and elements of the episode served as a clever symbol for providing accurate information to the public.

Perhaps if a few more doctors and psychologists in far-removed parts of England had watched it, experiences like mine wouldn’t be truly so common. 

Paul Aitken writes under the name David Jester. His tardy novel, An Idiot In Marriage (£9.99), is published by Sky Pony Press and present on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *