There’s a lot of misinformation out there about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome. With the help of this blog, I hope to change that. I’d like to also preface my posting on this blog by saying, I do my best to fact-check, but from time to time I will probably end up posting something that ends up being wrong. I welcome criticism and correction, as long as it is done respectfully.
OCD is an anxiety disorder involving intrusive, obsessive thoughts/fears. Compulsions are performed to neutralize the fear.
Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome (or Tourette’s Syndrome) is a neuropsychiatric disorder involving tics, or habits, which often involve a premonitory urge just before the tic happens. Tics tend to worsen with increased anxiety.
They are classified as separate disorders, and there is also a correlation in some people between Tourette’s and ADHD. As I have TS and OCD, this blog focuses on TS and the theorized subset of OCD which is related to TS. From time to time, there may be discussion of ADHD, but that is not the focus here, because that has not been my topic of research. It is an interesting topic in its own right, however, and I welcome such discussion in the comments.
In this first post I’d like to discuss the similiarites (and differences) between OCD and TS. Here is a list:
- Both OCD and TS symptoms tend to worsen with anxiety.
- Both involve feeling an urge or compulsion to perform tasks, whether those tasks be physical or mental.
- Both disorders involve behavior which often needs to be repeated over and over, until it feels “just right.”
- In family members of people with TS, there is an equal percentage chance of having a relative with either TS or OCD.
So far you can see it is a short list. However, these similarities are striking. I wonder if one day, we might even discover that TS and OCD are the same disorder, expressed in different ways. This is a theory I have.
Here are some differences:
- TS is more common in men than women. OCD is about equal between genders, but in families where tics are present, women are more likely to inherit OCD than TS.
- OCD responds better to cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- OCD is a disorder of thoughts and fears; TS is a disorder of physical feelings.
Some people believe that a specific subset of OCD is related to TS. I believe this could be true. People with OCD vary greatly amongst themselves, and here are some of the ways:
- Some people with OCD are hoarders, wanting to collect items compulsively — or reversely, refusing to throw almost anything away.
- Others are big on superstitious, or “magical thinking” — i.e., if I step on a crack it will literally break my mother’s back; if I don’t count to 10 after I do this activity then a loved one will die; if I don’t touch this object 4 times then I will die, etc.
- Some are obsessed with keeping everything clean and neat; others are more obsessed with personal or relationship fears (will my husband leave me, cheat on me, etc.) which will not go away.
I experienced some “magical thinking” OCD as a child, but have never really had hoarding tendencies. It would be interesting to find out which OCD traits are most commonly associated with Tourette’s.
It should also be noted that almost any OCD trait can actually be reversed. For example, I experienced a compulsive hand-washing problem as a child. Once I got “over” this, I have also experienced a compulsive worry about whether I’m washing my hands too much. Likewise, some with OCD are hoarders; but in reverse, some with OCD are also obsessed with not keeping any junk and throw almost everything away.
No one symptom (or lack thereof) can characterize any disorder, including OCD and TS.