In this post, the terms “Tourettes”, “Tourette Syndrome”, “TS”, and “tics” are interchangeable.
I want to caution the Tourette Syndrome community against using the term “personality” or the concept “separate personality” to describe their tics.
I’m someone who deals with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, and it’s frightening to see this concept tossed around so loosely without regard to the idea that some people actually do have multiple personalities; personalities with individual thoughts and opinions that aren’t random in the way that tics tend to be (random brain misfirings). With DID/MPD, the personalities frequently are fully developed and whole persons who happen to be forced to share the same body.
It’s fine to say that Tourettes, or your tics, are separate from you as a person- that the tics don’t reflect you or your personality. It’s even okay to say tics seem to have a mind of their own. It’s even okay to give your TS a different name. But I would hesitate to refer to TS as a personality, because it isn’t. Tourette Syndrome can’t make decisions for itself or have its own memories and feelings. It’s just a neurological disorder.
My fear, in carelessly applying the term “separate personality”, is that the same phrase ends up being used to describe two totally different things. In turn, this may cause people to assume that they can understand DID/MPD when they really can’t- no one can really know what it’s like to have DID unless they have it themselves.
I happen to have both TS and DID/MPD and so can verify that they are two entirely different experiences. While my TS is separate from me and my decisions, it is not a separate personality. And I can say this because I actually do know what it’s like to have separate personalities. My personalities are whole individuals with human rights.
Take a moment with me to consider ADA law and its interpretations. It isn’t the wheelchair a person uses that has the right to access a business or building, no. It’s the person in the wheelchair that has those rights. And, while a wheelchair can definitely be a part of a person, it isn’t a person itself.
A person with TS is just that, as well. Tourettes is a part of them, but isn’t who they are, TS is not a person, and tics don’t have rights. Tourette Syndrome can take over my body in every physical sense and it’s still not a person.
But, with DID/MPD, no matter who is in control of my body, that person in charge is a full citizen with individual rights.