Homeopathic Medicine for Tic Disorders and Tourette SyndromeTamara Der-Ohanian May 1, 2011
Kyle’s parents were disturbed by their son’s behaviour at school. The 11-year-old was often in trouble for pulling other students’ hair, then laughing about it. It started happening sporadically when Kyle was nine, but escalated in frequency and severity over time.
Around the time of the onset of this behaviour, Kyle was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder) and given the commonly prescribed medication, Ritalin. After nine months on Ritalin, Kyle’s parents decided to take him off the drug in search of natural solutions for their son’s health concerns.
After coming off the medication, Kyle had developed a new symptom – a facial tic. Without warning, he would grimace for no apparent reason. This could happen while talking, doing homework or quietly watching TV. On one occasion, the tic was even observed while Kyle was sleeping.
When it came to pulling hair, Kyle’s parents had assumed his actions to be behavioural – needing discipline and behaviour modification. Following a series of neurological tests, Kyle’s parents were surprised with the diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome. Armed with a double diagnosis, ADHD and Tourette Syndrome, Kyle and his parents sought homeopathic treatment last June.
WHAT ARE TIC DISORDERS?
A tic is a sudden, involuntary, repetitive motor movement or vocalization involving distinct muscle groups. Motor tics can include eye blinking, nose crunching, pulling at clothes or touching others. Vocal tics can include clearing one’s throat, expressing simple sounds or uttering socially unacceptable words.
While the exact cause is unknown, it is believed that tics are triggered by abnormal neurotransmitters within the brain – namely chemical messengers dopamine, serotonin and cyclic adenosine monophosphate.
Tic disorders occur along a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe, and are classified according to duration and severity: 1) Simple or Transient tics; 2) Chronic tics; and 3) Tourette syndrome.
SIMPLE OR TRANSIENT TICS
Eye blinking, mouth movements, shoulder shrugging, and head jerking are a few examples of the endless variety of simple motor tics. Simple phonic tics are meaningless sounds or noises like throat clearing, coughing, sniffling and the like. As the title suggests, the tics are transient, or appear and disappear for short periods – for weeks or months at a time.
While more common in school children, simple tics can occur at any age. For some, tics can be a source of stress and embarrassment. Others tend to be unconcerned, as was the case of a 41-year-old interior designer who sought homeopathic treatment for her anxiety disorder.
Gemma complained about her sleep difficulties, heart palpitations and skin problems, but never mentioned her nervous tic. Every so often, during our conversation, she would contort her mouth a little. When I asked her about it, she said she’d been told she does it, but was unaware of it most of the time.
Homeopathic remedies are prescribed by the symptoms experienced, rather than the condition or diagnosis. Accordingly, I prescribed the remedy Ignatia, which corresponded to Gemma’s unique symptoms and personality type.
Over a period of six months Gemma reported feeling calmer, happier and sleeping better than ever before. To her surprise, the nervous tic had also disappeared.
In order for a tic disorder to be classified as chronic, it must be a daily occurrence for a period of three consecutive months, or nearly every day for a period of one year. Chronic or vocal tics are characterized by the presence of one or the other (motor or vocal tics) but not simultaneously.
Chronic tics can include excessive blinking, quick movements of the arm or leg, grimaces of the face, sounds, grunts and throat clearing. Sufferers are able to hold off these symptoms for short periods, but tend to feel a sense of relief to carry out the tics. Tics can become worse during fatigue, excitement or other stressful periods in a sufferer’s life. Chronic tics can also continue during all stages of sleep.
CASE OF CHRONIC TICS AND OCD
One teenager with chronic tic disorder described his need to touch people as an “inner urge”. Cory also felt compelled to touch every corner he encountered, such as walls, furniture, books and boxes. Cory was also diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). His unique symptoms (aggression, impulsiveness and nightmares) corresponded well with the remedy Argentum Metallicum.
After four months on this remedy, Cory became increasingly more able to control his urge to touch people, and corners. After seven months, Cory felt more in control, his aggression and impulsiveness diminished, and the nightmares disappeared. While considerably better, the tics only happened sporadically, during stressful situations; with the last one reported before a final exam.
CHRONIC VOCAL TICS
Chronic vocal tics can fall into the following categories:
- Echolalia – repeating words or phrases just spoken by someone else.
- Palilalia – repeating one’s own spoken words.
- Lexilalia – repeating words or phrases after reading them.
- Coprolalia – spontaneous utterance of socially unacceptable or offensive words or phrases. This can be a symptom of Tourette syndrome.
TOURETTE SYNDROME – KYLE’S CASE CONTINUES
The most severe of tic disorders, Tourette syndrome is characterized by the presence of both motor and vocal tics. Although known to occur in adults, symptoms typically present between ages 5 and 18 and last for a minimum of one year. The symptoms often reduce into adulthood. Tics that begin in adulthood are generally not considered symptoms of Tourette Syndrome, and usually have a secondary cause.
One interesting symptom which Kyle reported was a distorted sense of perception. He would sometimes observe himself as physically smaller than he was – separate from himself. The suitable homeopathic remedy was Agaricus.
After two months on this remedy, Kyle’s perception problem completely disappeared. His attention slowly improved over the next six months and his grades improved as a result. Today, ten months later, Kyle’s case is still a work in progress. While all his symptoms have improved by 70-80%, at times Kyle can still display nervous tics, and on rare occasions, pull someone’s hair.
DISTINGUISHING TIC DISORDERS
Tics can be a part of many illnesses and conditions. It is therefore important to have proper testing and medical diagnosis in order to distinguish tic disorders from other conditions.
According to the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders: Clinical Descriptions and Diagnostic Guidelines (by the World Health Organization), there is no clear dividing line between tic disorders with some associated emotional disturbance and an emotional disorder with some associated tics.
Conditions other than Tourette Syndrome that may manifest tics include developmental disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and stereotypic movement disorders. In addition, tics can also be a part of Sydenham’s chorea, idiopathic dystonia, Huntington’s disease, neuroacanthocytosis, Hallervorden-Spatz syndrome, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Wilson’s disease, and tuberous sclerosis. Other possibilities for tics include Down syndrome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, XYY syndrome and fragile X syndrome.
Tics can be induced by prescription drugs, the use of “street” drugs, head trauma, encephalitis, stroke and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even low levels of thyroid hormone (Hypothyroidism) are known to cause tics. Tics are also associated with certain emotional disturbances, such as OCD and hypochondrical phenomena, as well as some seizure activity.
HOW HOMEOPATHY WORKS
Homeopathic remedies are highly diluted substances that challenge the known laws of pharmacology. Critics often dismiss the positive effects of homeopathy as merely due to placebo effect. And yet, according to homeopathic doctrine and 200+ years of experience, the more diluted the substance, the more potent it becomes.
Homeopathic remedies work in the spiritual plane as opposed to the physical plane, which is how we are used to thinking and measuring things. Dr. Hahnemann (founder of homeopathy) believed that diluting and succussing (vigorously shaking) of substances released a spirit-like power that worked on the spiritual level or the “vital force”.
The vital force is the healing power or energy that exists within all living things. Chinese Medicine calls it Chi, while Indian Ayurveda refers to it as Prana. The vital force fuels our mind, body and emotions. It keeps us healthy and balanced. When the balance of the vital force is disturbed by factors such as stress, pollution or improper diet, it becomes weakened and susceptible to illness.
A homeopath’s task, in any illness, is to find a substance, or homeopathic remedy, that corresponds to the sufferer’s physical and emotional health. The correct remedy unlocks the healing power of the vital force, allowing the organism to do what it does naturally – heal itself.
Whether you are suffering from tic disorders, headaches or anxiety, homeopathy offers solutions. A homeopathic remedy is prescribed based on your unique symptoms, feelings and experiences. This remedy resonates with the energetic vibration of your illness and sets you on your path to recovery.
Tamara Der-Ohanian, DSHomMed, HOM, is a registered homeopath practising in North York, Ontario. She also teaches at the Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine. Tamara is accepting new patients and can be reached at (416) 385-1001 or visit her web site at www.TamaraDer-Ohanian.com