Billie Eilish discusses Tourette’s syndrome – signs and symptoms of condition

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·Lifestyle Writer, Yahoo Life UK
·4 min read
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Billie Eilish arrives at the In America: An Anthology of Fashion themed Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, New York, U.S., May 2, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly - HP1EI53020689
Billie Eilish has lived with Tourette's syndrome since she was 11. (REUTERS)

Billie Eilish has opened up about being diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome from a young age.

The Grammy award-winning singer, 20, was prompted to discuss her condition when she experienced a tic on camera, brought on by the lights, during an interview on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman for Netflix.

"If you film me for long enough, you're going to see lots of tics," she said. "I don't care. It's really weird, I haven't talked about it all.

"The most common way people react is they laugh, [think] that I'm trying to be funny...and I'm always left incredibly offended by that."

Commenting on how it can often go unnoticed, or misunderstood, she said, "What's funny is so many people have it that you would never know," adding that she knew of other artists who did, but that she wasn't going to "out them".

When Letterman expressed he hoped the interview hadn't exacerbated her condition, Eilish replied, "Not at all.

"I actually really love answering questions about it, because it's very very interesting. And I am incredibly confused by it. I don't get it."

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Billie Eilish attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating
Billie Eilish has learnt to make friends with her condition. (Getty Images)

Eilish was diagnosed with Tourette's at 11 years old, having experienced "small" tics when she was a child.

The types of tics she describes experiencing now include ear wiggling, raising her eyebrow, clicking her jaw and flexing her arm.

"These are things you would never notice if you're just having a conversation with me, but for me, they're very exhausting," she explained.

"It's not like I like it, but I feel it's part of me. I have made friends with it. And so now, I'm pretty confident in it."

However, when asked whether it happens when she performs, she replied, "No. When I'm moving around, I'm not ticcing at all.

"When I'm riding my horse I'm not ticcing, when I'm moving, when I'm thinking and focusing, when I'm singing."

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What is Tourette's syndrome?

Tourette's syndrome is a condition that causes a person to make involuntary sounds and movements called tics, according to the NHS.

While it usually starts during childhood, tics and other symptoms usually improve over the years, sometimes going away entirely. There is no cure for the condition, but treatment – which can include behavioural therapy and medicine – can help manage symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of Tourette's syndrome

Symptoms can be both physical and vocal, and can be worse on some days than others, particularly during periods of stress, anxiety or tiredness.

Example of physical tics, as listed by the NHS, include:

  • blinking

  • eye rolling

  • grimacing

  • shoulder shrugging

  • jerking of the head or limbs

  • jumping

  • twirling

  • touching objects and other people

Examples of vocal tics include

  • grunting

  • throat clearing

  • whistling

  • coughing

  • tongue clicking

  • animal sounds

  • saying random words and phrases

  • repeating a sound, word or phrase

  • swearing (this is rare and only affects about 1 in 10)

Tics are not usually harmful to overall health, but can be painful, or tiring.

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Watch: 17-year-old with Tourette's syndrome explains how she copes with her diagnosis

When to seek medical advice

The NHS advises that you should contact your GP if you or your child starts having tics. As many children have tics for several months before growing out of them, it's important to remember their symptoms may not necessarily mean they have Tourette's syndrome.

While there's no single test for the condition, tests and scans can rule out other health problems. A diagnosis can be given to those who have had several tics for at least a year, which can help individuals be better understand, and ensure they get access to the right kind of treatment and support.

You can also find support from charity Tourette's action.