First dates can be stressful. The nervous butterflies most people feel before a first date can take the form of sheer anxiety for many individuals with tic disorders, including Tourette syndrome (TS). The Tourette Association of America reports that approximately six in 1,000 children struggle with the disorder. The prevalence of TS in adults “is expected to be significantly less than in children due to the fact that tic symptoms abate in later adolescence or early adulthood,” though more research is needed in this respect. Regardless, the harsh realities of the modern dating world can present significant obstacles and increased anxiety for individuals struggling with TS.
The Tourette Association of America recommends a series of tips to help these individuals thrive in social situations. If an individual has primarily small, unobtrusive tics, then it might be best to make a small remark regarding TS after the first one occurs. For instance, “Did you notice that little twitch I just did?” might be a casual segue into the conversation. However, if an individual is concerned that potentially offensive tics might occur, such as calling a date an inappropriate name or using foul language, it is encouraged that the mention of TS occur early, before these behaviors have a chance to surface. Those with TS can also prepare for and counteract their tics to reduce the amount of social awkwardness potentially caused by them. For instance, if an individual has a tic that involves spitting, he or she can carry a tissue.
Though measures can be taken to improve the likelihood of a successful first date, it can be difficult for adults with TS to go through the experience when the fear of tics surfacing looms in the forefront of their minds. As Brent Zillwood, one of the subjects of the British documentary series “The Undateables,” explained in 2014, “Going out with me is like going on a date with a live grenade and hoping that it doesn’t go off. I hate the awkward silences because that is when the Tourette’s really wants to come out.” Zillwood recently wed a woman he met while filming the show, who says she doesn’t mind the symptoms of his disorder since she loves so many different things about him.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a tic disorder or the anxiety that often co-occurs, help is available. Sovereign Health Group specializes in treating individuals struggling with mental health disorders, substance abuse issues and dual diagnosis. Call (866) 819-0427 to speak with a professional today.
Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer