Study Finds Anxiety and Panic Disorders Most Disabling Co-Occurring Disorder Among Tourette Syndrome Patients

Tourette syndrome is an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by multiple physical tics (such as eye blinking, head jerking, and facial movements) and at least one vocal tic, such as throat clearing and repeating words or phrases.

A new study has found that among patients with Tourette syndrome who also suffer from another disorder, anxiety and panic disorder are the most frequently suffered co-occurring disorders. The study was presented at the 14th International Congress on Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Lead author David G. Lichter, MD, professor of clinical neurology in the University at Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, co-author Sarah G. Finnegan, MD, PhD, UB assistant professor of neurology, used the Global Assessmen of Functioning scale to identify those who have a higher tendency to already have or develop disabilities related to either the severity of their Tourette-related tics or to psychiatric disorders that are associated with Tourette syndrome, such as substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and mood disorder.

Dr. Lichter explained that their study identified the most significant predictors of disability, which can be used to follow patients more closely and begin interventions.
He added that the researchers didn’t except anxiety/panic disorder to me the most disabling disorder associated with Tourette syndrome, as they thought depression would be more prevalent and disabling.

For most people, the tics associated with Tourette syndrome subside after mid-to-late adolescence, but in those whose tics continue throughout adulthood, the severity of the tics are the main contributing factor to psychosocial and occupational disability, according to Lichter.

Lichter and his team studied 66 patients who were followed for an average of 8.2 years, ranging in age from 20 to 80. Nearly 32 percent also had been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and 62 percent displayed OCD symptoms. Almost 29 percent were diagnosed with anxiety or panic disorder, and 21 percent showed symptoms of anxiety.

Other Tourette-associated disorders were depression, depressed mood, bipolar disorder, rage attacks and severe self-injury, adult attention-deficit disorder, substance use disorder, psychosis, and restless leg syndrome.

Dr. Lichter said the researchers want to examine the interactions of substance abuse, tic severity, and mood disorders to see how they relate to personal and social or occupation disability.

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