The contribution of autobiography and literature to the understanding of Tourette syndrome

Matthew Neal 1, Andrea Eugenio Cavanna 1,2,3

1 Department of Neuropsychiatry, BSMHFT and University of Birmingham, United Kingdom; 2 School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston Brain Centre, Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom; 3 Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology and University College London, United Kingdom

Objective

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by the presence of multiple tics and often associated with co-morbid behavioural problems, such as obsessive-compulsive symptoms, attentional problems and affective dysregulation. First-person accounts of TS are particularly important to understand key features of subjective experiences related to tic expression and other aspects at the interface between neurology and psychiatry. We therefore set out to explore the role of modern literature and autobiography in portraying TS to the general public.

Methods

We reviewed the full-text of a representative sample of modern literary texts and autobiographies and critically appraised their contributions to the understanding of Tourette syndrome.

Results

The reviewed texts explored the experience of TS from a variety of literary perspectives and demonstrated the contribution of autobiographical accounts to understanding tics and the rich inner world of patients with TS.

Conclusions

Our findings highlight the importance of literary accounts (particularly if written from a first-person perspective) in providing education about potentially stigmatising conditions, such as TS.

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