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.

7 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. Cuz Joey says:

    Hey Ash wasn’t sure about the first person perspective wasn’t aware from Mom ever that you may had any OCD tendencies, mom had never spoke of it and she spoke of you often. Is an interesting topic that and the Tourette’s syndrome. Expect you will help many who are looking for help and a forum to ask their questions or seek someone to talk with. What is the scope of your blog what is it you are hoping to offer people who share time with U on the blog?

    I find I have a limited exposure to either topic at least with people who suffer from Tourette’s or OCD, but I will be back if that is okay so I can get some perspective. I also expect you to insight some spirited dialogue about the topics.

    • willitbeok says:

      Your mom was my aunt Grace, right? I really liked Grace, and wished I could have known her better. I know that my mom really liked and got along with Grace. I think they had some things in common. It was always funny to me that when we went to visit (my dad’s sister) Grace, I noticed that my dad always ended up talking to Dick and my mom always ended up talking to Grace. It’s like in social situations, the men and women split up, even disregarding familial relations! 😛

      I learned to kind of “hide” my OCD growing up. It’s a lot better understood now, than it was then — and was even less so when my parents were growing up. As a kid, I had a hand-washing problem, and several other fears about catching diseases/getting contaminated. Actually the first time I stopped eating meat, when I was 5 years old, was because of the “Mad Cow Disease” scare. 🙂

      I was surprised when I started learning about Tourette’s by how different it is, than its reputation. People make fun of it and say that it’s a disorder of involuntary swearing, but that’s actually an extremely rare symptom, and the only reason involuntary swearing is sometimes involved is that a tic can pretty be much ANYTHING a human can do, including that!

      I’ve always been fascinated by autism, too. I think it’s very interesting to learn about how the brain works (and in some cases, doesn’t work :P).

      • mathematicallyconfused says:

        Oh yes… mad cow disease. There was an outbreak when I was in high school, and I went vegan for about 5 years. I guess OCD makes us prone to overestimate such dangers.

      • Cuz Joey says:

        Yes Mom your Aunt Grace loved you a lot, was always making a proud comment. Uncle Ed and Dick did have a connection based on what your Dad has said over the phone a few times when he called or I him. I remember Mom always speaking very fondly of Aunt Barbara and was very proud of her brother and their relationship(your mom and his). Sorry to be a bit slow posting responses, I had some difficulty finding your replies and where the most sensible place for my comments so that you would be able to follow the flow of the conversation easily.

        I am enjoying reviewing your blog, and find it rewarding following your thoughts and perspectives. Something I’ve wanted for a long time missing the opportunity to keep in touch with you over the years. I always knew the process would be rewarding for me, from just knowing your Dad and how much his relationship has always been to Alice and myself, and Pandy. Relating our love for your Dad and drawing the same happy result from corresponding with you. I look forward to reading more on your shared descriptions how OCD has been a concern in your life and TS.

    • willitbeok says:

      Argh, I forgot to answer your question!

      What is the scope of this blog, and what am I hoping to offer people on here?

      Well, this blog was created mainly to explore the similarities and differences between OCD and Tourette’s. Some evidence strongly indicates a relation between the two disorders. As new evidence comes out, I want to share and discuss that on here.

      But I also plan on posting about other OCD/TS topics, such as information on tics, obsessions/compulsions; just general information about the disorders.

      I hope that people can come together on this blog and not feel so alone or “different” anymore; I hope we with OCD and TS can learn helpful things from each other by sharing experiences, and I hope that people without OCD or TS (or who suspect they might have it) are able to learn more.

  2. I have the magical thinking OCD, and the relationship OCD…

    I think what you say makes sense, about Tourette’s and OCD being connected. Perhaps Tourette’s is a subtype of OCD.

    • willitbeok says:

      It’s hard to say exactly what the connection might be until more research is done and analyzed — but it does appear the connection is closer than it first appears. There is also something called “Tourettic OCD” where (it’s complicated, but as best I understand it) people get urges to do more OCD-like compulsions, but based on a physical feeling that’s more like the premonitory urge of a tic. Personally I wonder if maybe Tourette’s and OCD might be different expressions of the same underlying brain disorder — however, I do believe that studies indicate different parts of the brain are involved for Tourette’s versus OCD… so that theory may not be very sound.

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