The Link Between Poverty and Tourette’s SyndromeGlobally, one in every 100 people lives with Tourette’s Syndrome. This is a neurological disability categorized by having one or more vocal tics or repetitive sounds an individual makes and cannot control. Some tics can be as simple as blinking and grunting while some individuals live with more complex tics. In order to be diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS), the individual must start displaying their tics before they turn 18. People who have Tourette’s Syndrome cannot help the movements or noises that they make, and they can become even worse when under stress. Poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome make life much more difficult because higher stress levels have more of an impact on individuals with TS.

Poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome

A recent study showed that individuals with TS experience more psychological stress than individuals without. Poverty, which is already a stressful factor, has a more negative effect on individuals with the disorder. This study showed high amounts of psychological stress eventually lead to severe depression as well as an increase in tics and their severity. This is often seen in individuals facing both poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome. Limited access to medical care and the stress caused by their financial situation are ultimately making their condition worse.

Individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome struggle with finding jobs. According to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Disability, 80 to 90 percent of the disabled population in developing nation’s is unemployed. In Asian and Pacific countries, there are 370 million disabled individuals. Statistically speaking around three million of those people will have Tourette’s Syndrome. Being unable to find work only exacerbates the situation and continues the cycle of poverty and stress.

Access to Medical Care

Many impoverished areas lack access to proper medical care. Many developing countries have very limited access to hospitals and doctors’ offices. Much of the resources offered by nonprofits and NGOs are equipped to help with HIV/AIDS support and common illnesses. They do not have the equipment needed to support and treat individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Furthermore, people below the poverty line cannot afford medication. Impoverished people make up nearly 70 percent of the uninsured population. So, when they need medications for disorders such as Tourette Syndrome, they have to pay out of pocket. For many families facing poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome the medicine is out of their price range and not a top priority. The most common medication used to treat TS is risperidone. Without insurance, the retail price can be anywhere from $20 to almost $90 for 30 tablets depending on the dose, making it a monthly expense that some people cannot afford.

For some people, medicine does not help control their tics. Instead, they benefit from a therapy treatment called CBIT. Short for Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics, CBIT is a type of behavioral treatment that helps individuals develop actions known as competing responses to help either slow or reduce their tics and severity. More severe cases of TS might need deep brain stimulation. This is a surgical procedure where an electrode is implanted in the brain and sends shocks to alter the activity of the brain’s circuits, essentially restarting them and decreasing the tics. As of 2019, however, these treatments are only offered in the United States.

Organizations Helping with Tourette’s Syndrome

One organization assisting with TS globally is the Tourette’s Association of America. The website has access to research, resources, support, advocacy and webinars. Another organization is Tourette’s Around the World. It is a U.K. based website that provides links to all of the global websites that help and support individuals with TS. On the website, there are links to websites from more than 20 countries that provide information on support and treatment in those areas. However, there are no websites specifically addressing poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome.

Contrary to what is shown in the media, Tourette’s Syndrome is not an uncommon disorder. With exceptions to extreme cases, it does not inhibit a person’s ability to work. Because of this negative media portrayal many people with TS struggle to find work. This contributes to global poverty and leaves individuals without access to basic necessities or proper medical treatments and medicines. Although there are organizations working towards ending the negative stigma, negative media portrayals are still inhibiting individuals and leaving them excluded from the workforce, creating a link between poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome.

Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr