Tics and swearing? It's a disease and it's called coprolalia

Let’s talk about coprolalia. Suddenly, you start swearing and saying obscene words totally disconnected from the context: it is a disorder and affects 20% of those suffering from Tourette’s syndrome

The word Coprolalia comes from the Greek ‘kopros’, meaning ‘dung, faeces’, and ‘lalein’, meaning ‘stuttering’

It refers to a tic-like event involving obscene and socially inappropriate but unintentional vocalisations.

Between 10 and 33% of cases this disorder is related to tics and, in particular, to Gilles Tourette syndrome (also known as tic disorder), whose incidence in the world population is 1%: between 0.4% and 3.8%.

Those who deal with movement disorders also know about Tourette’s syndrome in Italy, which is characterised by multiple tics and verbal compulsions (coprolalia),’ explains Giancarlo Zito, a neurologist at the San Raffaele Pisana hospital.

‘These are subjects who, in an uncontrolled manner, have to say whatever comes into their heads: an explosive compulsion to speak with content that is often unbecoming for the circumstance and the place where it occurs.

Tourette syndrome is counted among the movement disorders, so to diagnose it, the neurologist points out, ‘there must be both severe tics and one or more phonetic tics that last for more than a year’.


In coprolalia, adds the non-profit organisation Touretta Roma, words ‘are uttered absolutely out of context, are uttered in the most outlandish moments, have nothing to do with feelings of anger and do not express the real thoughts of the tourectic person.

Tourette syndrome is often identified as the ‘swearing disease’ but in reality only two out of ten touretics have this problem.

In any case, coprolalytic touretics exist and live with a perennial feeling of mortification for this totally uncontrolled behaviour’.


Certainly, the utterance of words, or phrases, that are deemed offensive is the most common of the coprolalia disorders, which also include copropraxia (the impulse to perform obscene gestures without control), mental coprolalia (obscenities that are obsessively thought about), and coprography (the impulse to write down those expressions or obscenities).

Unusual vocalisations also recur in other vocal tics such as palilalia (involuntary repetition of words or phrases), echolalia (repetition of words uttered by another person in a meaningless form) and klazomania (compulsive screaming).

Finally, coprolalia in the absence of Tourette’s syndrome may occur in patients with brain lesions, ‘senility’, and in those with neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases.

It may also appear in association with seizure disorders, in a stroke or post-stroke state.


Concluding on treatment, there is no single therapy for coprolalytic patients because in most cases they do not need it.

However, both drug therapies and behavioural therapies can be followed for social-psychological support and relaxation techniques to relieve stress.

The best approach is always a multidisciplinary one.

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Agenzia Dire

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