Tourette’s and Sensory Issues

This article is geared toward teachers so they can better help students with TS in the classroom. I’m using it to bring up a discussion about the possible link between TS, OCD, and sensory issues. The article, entitled TS is More than Tics, highlights awareness of multiple aspects of TS which are easily overlooked. One of these is “Sensory Integration Issues.”  It hasn’t caused severe problems in my life, but I know of a few specific, obviously sensory issues that I’ve had. First is that as a small child, I went through a phase of being extremely sensitive to light. I couldn’t bear to look up without getting an extreme headache. This was shortly after an infection I had and the doctor thought it was a sinus issue. It didn’t last but a few days or weeks before going away, but I feel like it still comes back now and then. Once in a while I’ll have a day when I can’t bear to look up without that pain. However, it usually just lasts a few hours and not the whole day. But there’s one more bizarre thing about it — logic tells me it must be light-related. However, it doesn’t always feel that way. When I was a kid for instance, I distinctly remember that I could be looking up even in a dark room and it would happen. That means it must be psychological in some way, but doesn’t make it any less real.

Second, when I was a child and my mom took me to the park to swing on the swing-sets, I found that when I’d come home at night and try to be still and go to sleep, when I got into bed I’d suddenly start feeling like I was back in the swing. That feeling of swinging back and forth came back to me and was very real and disturbing. It kept me awake for a long time. It felt like something I couldn’t control. Thus I began to think swinging on the swings was a bad idea for me. It could be that I simply stayed on the swing-set too long; or it could be that this is a normal thing that happens to kids sometimes. I don’t know.

Third, I’ve always had a thing about certain textures, especially paper — and especially when my fingernails are short. If my fingernails are short and the tips of my fingers touch paper in a way that doesn’t “feel right”, I get the willies really bad and feel like shuddering. I get an urge immediately afterwards to clench my fingers together, to get rid of the “bad” feeling. I’ve been thinking about this and realized it has some characteristics of a tic, but all my life I’ve just thought of it as a sensory issue. It will be interesting to see what my therapist has to say about it, but I have so many problems it’s hard to cover them all. 🙂

Also if it is a tic, it’s a tic triggered by a specific, external stimulus; as opposed to my breathing tic, which is affected by external stimuli but happens on its own as well.

I wonder if there could be a link between OCD and sensory issues as well. I know a lot of people with OCD/OCPD seem to be very particular about the way they wear clothes, and the way clothes fit or “feel.” I know that my mom had symptoms of classic OCD, not tics, and yet she had this same sensory issue with paper because I heard her describe it and remembered identifying with it.

2 thoughts on “Tourette’s and Sensory Issues

  1. slackergames says:

    I don’t have Tourettes or true ticks. What I have are nervous ticks that aren’t tourettes and impulse control problems. I also have OCD and OCPD and they both fluctuate. I am overly aware of my bodily functions. If I nurse tells me to breath normal I end up just consciously breathing and can’t just naturally breath. I also had this fear of choking and aspirating and was overly aware of the sensations in my mouth and had certain sensations when I ate or drank. There was swallowing correctly and awkward swallows. I don’t get those sensations anymore after being on an ssri for a while. I was overly aware of every sensation in my mouth I could feel the slightest amount of saliva and would compulsively swallow obsessively all day uncontrollably. I don’t know if that was an impulsive behavior or a compulsion. It might have been OCD in that I felt that swallowing my saliva could be practice for eating and drinking to get my nerve to do it.

  2. willitbeok says:

    I identify with a lot of the feelings you’ve mentioned here. I think I used to do a lot of swallowing when I was a kid, which was probably an OCD thing as opposed to a tic. Sometimes the line between compulsions and tics is blurry. I have a tendency to do things like tap my feet a lot, but I consider those things to be a nervous habit rather than a tic. When I think of tics I think of physical, premonitory urges. I have a fear of choking too but only because my breathing tic does not go away when I’m eating or drinking and this means I have to eat and drink very carefully. I’m an extremely slow eater and drinker because of this.

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