Mind control: How behavioral therapy could help Tourette's sufferers manage their tics
After training 38 per cent of sufferers had much improved compared to
just six per cent of the control group
12:09 GMT, 10 August 2012
Pete Bennett, who won Big Brother 7, was diagnosed with Tourette's when he was 14
Tourette's sufferers could learn to control their tics by focusing their minds, a study has found.
They could manage their embarrassing and sometimes inappropriate tics using behaviour therapy by learning to recognise their onset, it says.
The neurological condition causes people to make repeated, jerky movements or grunting or coughing sounds.
t times, the tics may be more complex, such as cursing or moving around, and can be agony for the sufferer.
Medications such as antipsychotics are sometimes used to quell the
symptoms. Unfortunately, they often come with serious side effects such
as sedation, movement problems or weight gain.
Now researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have found a new effective therapy.
Study author Sabine Wilhelm, said: 'It is something that has created a lot of excitement in the field, because now we can finally treat neurological disorders with
The study tested a new kind of therapy called Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics, or CBIT, which grew out of an earlier behavioral technique.
Wilhelm explained that it focuses on creating awareness of oncoming tics and their triggers, so that people have a chance of controlling them before it's too late.
CBIT also teaches people to counteract the tic in subtle ways, for instance by balling up their fists if they feel compelled 'to give someone the finger.'
The researchers assigned 122 people over age 16 – most with Tourette's and some with a problem called chronic tic disorder – to one of two groups.
One group got eight sessions of CBIT training, while the other, comparison group, got only supportive treatment and education.
TOURETTE'S SYNDROME: PLAGUED BY TICS
The condition affects the brain and nervous system and is characterised by involuntary, random sounds and movements, known as tics.
Most sufferers have a mixture of both, though they can be simple (such as blinking or coughing) or complex (such as head shaking or swearing).
It is surprisingly common affecting one in 100 in some form.
Although not usually a threat to health, the tics can can social isolation, embarrassment and low self-esteem.
The cause is unclear but thought to be due to a malfunction in the part of the brain called the basal ganglia.
Children who develop the condition often have associated conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder or ADHD.
Treatments include medication such as clonidine and behavioural therapy.
Two thirds of people will experience a marked improvement in their symptoms, usually around 10 years after they first began.
At the end of the training, 38 per cent of people in the CBIT group had much or very much improved, compared to just 6 per cent of the comparison group.
The CBIT group also saw a 26 per cent decrease in the severity and frequency of their tics – more than double the improvement in the other group.
'Patients were so grateful, they would say things like, “This gives me a way to manage my tics, I now feel like I have control over my body”,' Wilhelm said.
'We also had three and six-month follow-ups and the treatment gains were maintained over time.'
While the therapy is not yet widely available, her group has been working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to train health professionals in the technique. So far, they have reached more than 2,000 providers, Wilhelm said.
The new study expands on earlier work in children by Wilhelm's group, which found similarly encouraging results.
Around three of every 1,000 children have Tourette's
and the condition is less common in adults.
'These two studies on behavior therapy… are by far the largest studies that have ever been done in terms of treatment of Tourette disorder,' she told Reuters.
'This is hopefully just the first step.'
For more information on Tourette Syndrome visit www.tsa-usa.org