‘I had to tape my fingers together to stop me tearing the skin’: the reality of living with Tourette syndrome

The singer Billie Eilish has spoken about living with the condition that affects 300,000 people in the UK. For many, trying to suppress their tics is exhausting. But others have learned to control their symptoms and use the energy as a driving force

Last month, the singer Billie Eilish talked candidly about her experience of living with Tourette syndrome. “I never don’t tic at all,” she told the talkshow host David Letterman. “The main tics that I do constantly, all day long, are: I wiggle my ear back and forth and raise my eyebrow and click my jaw.” She also flexes muscles in her arms, she says. “These are things you would never notice if you’re just having a conversation with me but, for me, they’re very exhausting.” The interview raised awareness of a condition that is still misunderstood – and helped to debunk some prevalent myths.

Although more than 300,000 people in the UK are known to have Tourette syndrome (TS), the real figure is likely to be much higher. But one common misconception is that the condition is characterised by loud, involuntary swearing – known as coprolalia. This only affects 10-20% of people with the condition; people with TS have [...]

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