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Singer-songwriter Billie Eilish is raising awareness of Tourette Syndrome after experiencing a head tick during a recent interview with comedian David Letterman about his Netflix Series “My next guest needs no introduction.”
“The funny thing is that so many people have it that you would never know,” Eilish said.
“A couple of artists have come forward and said, ‘I’ve always had Tourettes’ and I’m not going to release them because they don’t want to talk about it, but it was really, really interesting to me.”
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the common diagnostic manual for psychiatrists, uses the same criteria for Tourette’s disease that French neurologist Gilles de la Tourette used over 100 years ago. years, defining a tic as a “sudden, rapid, recurrent, non-rhythmic motor movement or vocalization.”
“Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disturbance which mainly affects school-aged children. It is characterized by short, sudden physical movements as well as vocal outbursts. These symptoms usually subside over time, becoming less common after puberty,” the American Psychiatric Association (APA) said.
Unlike other DSM-5 disorders, there is no severity threshold or criteria for impairment of daily activities, and the tic can last less than a year or become chronic lasting more than a year.
Tics are like having hiccups – even if you want to stop, your body keeps doing it. Although sometimes people can briefly prevent themselves from having a tic, eventually the person will, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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Tics are defined as motor or vocal, or a combination of the two, according to the APA.
Motor tics include blinking, shrugging, or shaking arms, while vocal tics include humming, clearing the throat, or shouting a word or phrase according to the CDC.
But even though the syndrome is often portrayed in the media as shouting swear words or constantly repeating words, these symptoms are not common or required for diagnosis, according to the agency.
There is no single test to diagnose the condition, so healthcare professionals often look at a patient’s symptoms to see if they meet the criteria for the syndrome.
“When motor and vocal tics are present and persist for at least a year, we speak of Tourette’s disorder”, specifies the psychiatric association.
Eilish, who is now 20, was diagnosed with the disease aged 11, but is frustrated when people react callously because they don’t know she has it.
During the interview with Letterman, she suddenly shook her head, so he asked, “What’s going on? The fly?”
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But she revealed that she had just suffered a motor tic due to the lights in the room.
“It’s really weird, I haven’t talked about it at all,” Eilish replied when Letterman asked if she could talk about her experience with Tourette.
“The most common way people react is to laugh because they think I’m trying to be funny. They think I’ll [imitates tic] like a strange movement. And then they say “Ha” and I’m still incredibly offended by that. Or they will [looks around] ‘What?’ and then I say, ‘I have the Tourette.'”
When she was first diagnosed, she told Letterman she had small motor tics, involving her eyes or jaw, but she doesn’t know what causes them.
As he grew older, his tics evolved into twitching his ear, raising his eyebrows, snapping his jaw, or flexing his arms or certain muscles.
“These are things you’ll never notice if you just have a conversation with me, but for me they’re very draining,” she said.
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But when she plays, concentrates, rides or moves, she doesn’t feel any tics. She “befriended him”.
“I really like answering questions about this because it’s very, very interesting, and it makes me incredibly confused,” Eilish said. “I don’t understand.”