Drug-Free Therapy for Tourette Syndrome

Behavioral therapy can help patients with Tourette syndrome

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Tourette syndrome patients may have another option for medication to help with tics. Learning prevention and management skills in therapy could replace meds.

Tourette syndrome has often been treated with medications, but various side-effects have been reported. Behavioral therapy may provide a side-effect-free alternative treatment for people with Tourette syndrome.

A recent study with 122 Tourette syndrome patients tested behavioral therapy as a treatment.  Results showed a 38 percent improvement of symptoms after eight weeks.

"Have questions about Tourette syndrome - speak with a therapist."

Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, led an investigation into behavioral therapy to reduce symptoms of Tourette syndrome.

A total of 122 Tourette syndrome patients aged 16-69 from 2005-2009 were recruited for the study.

Tourette syndrome patients have uncontrollable, quick movements, or sounds that are referred to as ‘tics’.

Participants were split into two groups. The first group underwent eight sessions of comprehensive behavioral therapy focusing on the ‘tic’ symptom of Tourette syndrome.

The second group underwent eight sessions of supportive treatment. Patients who responded well to the treatments did one extra session per month for three months after the initial eight sessions had ended.

Comprehensive behavioral therapy included: patient education, tic awareness training, learning how to identify tic triggers and management strategies.

Results of the study were rated on the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS) and the Clinical Global Impression-Improvement scale (CGII).

After the sessions, patients in the comprehensive behavioral therapy group had reduced scores on the YGTSS from 24.0 to 17.8.

Those in the supportive treatment group had a reduction on the scale from 21.8 to 19.3.

Scores on the CGII were rated as ‘much improved’ for 38 percent of the behavioral therapy group, and 6 percent for the supportive treatment group.

Participants were assessed six months after ending treatment sessions and showed maintained positive results.

This study was published in August in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Funding was provided by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, Yale University, the National Center for Research Resources, the National Institutes of Health and the Tourette Syndrome Association, no conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
August 24, 2012
Last Updated:
August 26, 2012