Posted on May 24, 2010 at 1:40 PM
Monday, May 24 at 4:37 PM
There’s some good news for people who suffer from Tourette syndrome. A new behavioral therapy is showing great promise in treating this mysterious problem. It was designed, in part, by San Antonio researchers.
Tourette syndrome is a neurological problem that affects one in 2,000 Americans. The hallmarks of the disorder are physical and vocal tics that can wreak havoc on people’s social interactions.
“It’s not a mental condition, a mental disorder in that people are crazy.” explained U.T. Health Science Center clinical psychologist Alan Peterson, Ph.D. “And yet sometimes, when people see people doing this they think that they must be unstable.”
Antipsychotic medications can help patients, but they often carry the risk of serious side effects. Now, in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Peterson and colleagues outline a breakthrough for Tourette patients. It’s a ten-week behavioral therapy program that helps people anticipate their urge to tic, then provides exercises to alleviate the involuntary movements and noises.
“They’ve come in initially with severe tics and by the tenth session, they are completely able to control the tics,” said Jeslina Raj, Psy.D., another researcher with the UTHSC department of psychiatry.
The improvements from behavior therapy were startlingly good. 53% of people who learned the relaxation and intervention techniques were able to reduce the severity of their tics, compared to 19% in the control group.
“So we were very excited about that,” Peterson commented. “The results we got are actually very similar to the results you would get with a medication, but you don’t tend to have the same side effects that you would have with a medication.”
Relief without drugs is a huge advance for people who suffer teasing and employment problems stemming from this mysterious medical condition.
The behavior therapy called Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (or CBIT) was developed over 25 years. Peterson said he expects it will change the standard practice and alter the way patients are treated nationwide.