ADHD and Tourette Syndrome

adhd and tourette's

Research suggests that there is a significant overlap between Tourette Syndrome and ADHD, with estimates suggesting that around 60-80% of individuals with Tourette Syndrome also experience symptoms of ADHD.

The overlap between Tourette Syndrome and ADHD is a complex phenomenon that poses unique challenges for individuals affected by both conditions. Understanding this overlap and exploring management solutions may significantly improve the quality of life for those living with these disorders in Australia.

Tic Disorders and Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome is a genetic neurological disorder characterized by involuntary and repetitive motor and vocal tics.

These tics typically manifest in childhood, often between the ages of 2 and 21. In Australia, it is estimated that one in every 100 school-aged children may have Tourette Syndrome.

Tics generally need treatment only if they are causing significant daily problems. Treatment options include behavioural interventions and medications. In mild cases, education and reassurance for the individual and family may be all that is needed.

Scottish pop singer Lewis Capaldi brought the reality of living with Tourette syndrome into the spotlight on the weekend when the severity of his tics saw him struggle to complete his Glastonbury Festival set.

While he continued with the set and was enthusiastically supported by the crowd, he struggled to make it through the final songs and ultimately ended up cutting his set short.

“For someone who struggles with Tourette [syndrome], this means the world,” a fan said online.

“The way his fans at his shows react if he’s unable to finish a song is truly heartwarming and gives me hope in this bleak world,” another said.

With Tic Disorders and Tourette Syndrome being brought further into the media, it provides an opportunity for us to reduce the stigma surrounding these conditions and reduce the impact on daily life for those diagnosed.

The Overlap

Individuals that have both ADHD and Tourette syndrome may exhibit different symptoms that may vary in severity and frequency depending on the person.

The following are some common symptoms that may be present:

  • Tics: Involuntary and sudden movements or sounds that may be simple or complex such as blinking, coughing, or shrugging.
  • Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Difficulty sitting still, restlessness, fidgeting, interrupting others during conversations, or difficulty waiting for their turn in activities.
  • Inattention: Difficulty focusing and paying attention, forgetfulness, disorganization, careless mistakes in schoolwork or work, or difficulty completing tasks.
  • Sleep Disorders: Decreased REM sleep, insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing are some of the most common impacts.

It’s important to note that not all individuals with ADHD will have Tourette syndrome, and not all individuals with Tourette syndrome will have ADHD. Additionally, the presence of ADHD in individuals with Tourette syndrome may make the management of tics more challenging

While many studies have attempted to identify a shared cause, the exact reasons behind the overlap between Tourette Syndrome and ADHD are still not well understood.

Researchers have not yet identified the specific genes involved in both disorders. However, it is possible that changes in the brain’s structure and function, caused by factors like epigenetics (environmental influences on gene expression), play a role in the development of these conditions.

Management Solutions

A multidisciplinary approach involving healthcare professionals, educators, families, and support networks is essential in providing effective management strategies and support for individuals living with these disorders in Australia.

1. Psychotherapeutic Interventions

Strategies such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may help individuals develop coping skills, improve impulse control, and reduce any associated anxiety or depression.

Targeted interventions may also focus on improving executive functions, such as planning and organization. Occupational therapy and speech therapy may be beneficial in addressing specific sensory or communication challenges that individuals with Tourette Syndrome may face.

2. Pharmaceutical Treatments

Medication management is often part of the treatment plan for individuals with ADHD. However, the use of medication in individuals with Tourette Syndrome requires special considerations. People with Tourette Syndrome may be more sensitive to certain medications, and some medications used to treat ADHD may potentially worsen tic symptoms.

Close collaboration and monitoring between healthcare professionals, individuals, and their families are essential to finding the right balance of medications, benefits, and potential side effects.

3. Self-Care Strategies

Engaging in regular physical activity, practising stress-reduction techniques, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle may help individuals manage symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Encouraging self-advocacy and teaching individuals to communicate their needs effectively may also empower them to navigate challenges and develop resilience.

4. Support Services & Education for ADHD and Tourette Syndrome

Living with the overlap of ADHD and Tourette Syndrome may be challenging for individuals and their families. Seeking support from specialised organisations and communities may provide valuable resources and a supportive network.

Additionally, collaborating with schools and educators is vital to ensure appropriate accommodations and understanding of the unique needs of individuals with these conditions.

The ADHD Foundation provides our Helpline to assist those living with and supporting those with ADHD to find information. Head to the website here to register your interest.


ADHD vs. Tourette Syndrome: Insights of a Neurodivergent Clinician

Managing ADHD and Tourette Syndrome at School, College, Work, and in the Community – Tourette Association of America

Tourette Syndrome and ADHD Webinar Series – Tourette Association of America

Tics and Tourette Syndrome – CHADD

 Tourette syndrome and comorbid ADHD: causes and consequences – N El Malhany, M Gulisano, R Rizzo, P Curatolo

Tourette Syndrome – Health Direct Australia