Heartthrob singer Billie Eilish was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at the age of 11. The Grammy Award winner, 20, acknowledged the neurological disorder as she had a tic while appearing recently on David Letterman’s Netflix talk show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

Tourette Syndrome is a condition of the nervous system that causes recurrent involuntary tics, which are repeated, involuntary physical movements such as twitches and vocal outbursts. The most frequent forms of tics involve blinking, sniffing, grunting, throat clearing, grimacing, shoulder movements and head movements.

While chatting with Letterman, Eilish began to move her head, which she explained is one of the tics associated with Tourette’s diagnosis.

“I never don’t tic at all, because the main tics that I do constantly, all day long, are like, I wiggle my ear back and forth and raise my eyebrow and click my jaw … and flex my arm here and flex this arm, flex these muscles. These are things you would never notice if you’re just having a conversation with me, but for me, they’re very exhausting,” Billie shared.

Symptoms of Tourette syndrome, such as uncontrollable tics and spontaneous vocal outbursts, tend to worsen during periods of excitement, stress or anxiety. The ‘Happier Than Ever’ singer shared that when she’s “focusing” on tasks like singing or riding horses, she doesn’t experience the tics as much.

Billie also explained that when she has a tic, people don’t always react appropriately. “The most common way that people react is they laugh because they think I’m trying to be funny. They think I’m [ticcing] as a funny move. And so they go, ‘Ha.’ And I’m always left incredibly offended by that. Or they go ‘What?’ And then I go, ‘I have Tourette’s.'”

According to the American Brain Foundation, about 200,000 people in the United States exhibit severe symptoms of Tourette syndrome. As many as 1 in 100 people in the United States experience milder symptoms.

During the talk show, Billie stressed that she’s not alone in living with Tourette syndrome.”So many people have it that you would never know. A couple artists came forward and said, ‘I’ve actually always had Tourette’s.’ And I’m not going to out them because they don’t want to talk about it. But that was actually really interesting to me because I was like, ‘You do? What?’ ”

Currently, the cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown, and there’s no way to prevent it. Researchers believe that an inherited genetic difference may be the cause. They’re working to identify the specific genes directly related to Tourette.

If you experience a more mild form of Tourette syndrome and your tics aren’t severe, you may not need treatment. If your tics are severe or cause thoughts of self-harm, several treatments are available. Your healthcare professional may also recommend treatments if your tics worsen during adulthood.

While Eilish admitted that she used to “damn” her symptoms, she now feels like they are “part” of her. “I have made friends with it, so now I’m pretty confident in it.”

These are the answers to few commonly asked questions about Tourette syndrome:

  1. What is Tourette Syndrome?
    Tourette Syndrome is a disorder that involves repetitive movements or unwanted sounds that can’t be easily controlled. These are called tics. For example, you might repeatedly blink your eyes, shrug your shoulders or blurt out unusual sounds.
  2. What are the signs and symptoms?
    The main symptom of Tourette Syndrome is tics. Symptoms usually begin when a child is 5 to 15, with the average being around 6 years of age. The first symptoms often are motor tics that occur in the head and neck area.
  3. What causes this condition?
    The exact cause of Tourette syndrome isn’t known. Having a family history of Tourette syndrome or other tic disorders might increase the risk of developing this condition. In addition, males are about 3-4 times more likely than females to develop this syndrome.

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