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Coprolalia is the utterance of obscene, aggressive or otherwise socially unacceptable words or phrases.  These words or phrases are usually included in a sentence where they have no context but may also be uttered alone when the person is not otherwise talking.


The socially unacceptable language may be swear words, words with a sexual connotation, racial slurs, demeaning insults, words regarding sexual orientation or skin colour, etc.


An example of a word or phrase being out of context is “Teacher, I f___ f___ really like those flowers on your desk.”  In this case the two words inserted have no meaning in the context of the sentence.  This also meets the criteria of a tic in that the words are “purposeless.”


While the definition of coprolalia uses the term “socially inappropriate” there are cases where the words are ordinary, acceptable words.  Some professionals will accept this as coprolalia while others will insist it does not meet the criteria.


The test of whether socially unacceptable language is or is not coprolalia is in the criteria that a tic is purposeless.  Using these words to express anger or frustration or to intentionally hurt someone has a purpose and therefore is not coprolalia.  Using a swear word as an adjective in a sentence to add meaning or emphasis to another word has a purpose and is not coprolalia.


One study puts the occurrence rate of coprolalia in people with TS only at 5% and the occurrence rate in people with TS and an associated disorder at 14%.


The use of insults or slurs used in coprolalia does not reflect a person beliefs or value system.


People with coprolalia often develop skills to hide, modify or suppress these tics when necessary.  Some examples are covering the mouth to muffle the words or lower the volume, modifying the word, expressing only a part to the word, etc.


The TSFC publication Understanding Tourette Syndrome – a Handbook for Educators has information that is helpful for school children.


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