New Normal

Coprolalia Part 1: The Nature of Coprolalia


The term coprolalia is used to describe involuntary vocalizations that are obscene or socially inappropriate.  Coprolalia includes swearing, but also includes saying things that are culturally taboo, socially unacceptable or inappropriate due to age or context.  For example, a child using any kind of obscene language, or anyone saying negative comments about another’s ethnicity or physical appearance or screaming “bomb” or “fire” in a public place are all considered coprolalia. Coprolalia may also refer to these phrases or words being said inside the persons head or kept to themselves which also causes intense internal distress for the individual.  Coprolalia can be a symptom of some neurological disorders as well as certain brain injuries.  Coprolalia occurs  as a symptom in only about 10% of people with Tourette Syndrome.  A rare symptom, but frequently misunderstood and glamourized by media.  Copopraxia are gestures and actions of the same nature as coprolalia. Coprolalia: Where tics and compulsions meet: Neurologically GiftedCoprolalia can occur in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as Tourette Syndrome.  People who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as Tourette Syndrome have a greater struggle as the two disorders may interact with and/or perpetuate coprolalia.   The obsession with performing, (or not performing), the inappropriate behaviour provokes the urge to perform the inappropriate behaviour and vice versa. (see Post:  Where Tics and Compulsions Meet:  TS Plus OCD for how these two disorders may interact) Coprolalia is a particularly distressing symptom for people with Tourette Syndrome.  The nature of coprolalia, being socially inappropriate, makes everyone involved uncomfortable, that is, until everyone understands what coprolalia is and why it occurs.  Education about coprolalia being involuntary and a symptom of a neurochemical disorder is essential to bring about acceptance and understanding.  Coprolalia can be a lifelong struggle  and the individual deserves understanding and acceptance.  Coprolalia must be accepted by the family first to provide the individual with a support system. Coprolalia: Neurologically Gifted People with coprolalia feel embarrassed and ashamed of their symptoms.  There is no will or want to the expression of coprolalia.  Often, the response to coprolalia and the lack of understanding and acceptance from other people amplifies the individual’s shame and embarrassment, leading to isolation.  Fear of performing the tic in public and being constantly scrutinized and judged may also lead to isolation and depression.  In addition, it drives the individual to constantly think about their coprolalia symptoms -What will I tic? -How will I handle it? -How can I suppress it -Who will laugh or stare? -Who will run away?  In turn, the hyper focussing will make the coprolalia occur more frequently and intensely.  In this way,  benign symptoms of coprolalia become malignant due to the stigmatization and judgment of the onlookers.

3 Common Difficulties in Understanding Coprolalia

Coprolalia is usually expressed in complex and variable ways, further leading to the misunderstanding of the involuntary nature of the behaviour.  It rarely presents itself as a cut and dry symptom which always challenges everyones understanding and acceptance.  The three examples below demonstrate how, by the complex nature of the symptom parents, teachers, the individuals themselves, onlookers can be constantly challenged to consistently accept coprolalia as a unwanted and uncontrollable symptom of Tourette Syndrome.

Continue Reading on Page 2:  The Common Difficulties Explained

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2 thoughts on “Coprolalia Part 1: The Nature of Coprolalia”

  1. I am looking for more information on Coprolalia where neither Tourette Syndrome nor OCD have been diagnosed, but instead ADD and FASD. Certainly there are indications of both OCD and Tourette Syndrome, but no formal diagnosis.

    Also, uncharacteristically, the use of socially inappropriate language, and of some rather bizarre inappropriate behavior, does not seem to be causing distress, nor attempts to suppress it. Rather it seems to be embraced as funny, even when there is universal censure from adults. The person in question is not yet in the teen years. This behavior goes well outside my many decades of life experience.

    1. Hi Mike

      FASD is not an area of specialization for me, so I’m afraid I’m unable to help you with that. However, the other symptoms you describe are consistent with those seen in TS (socially inappropriate language and behaviour). There are many good sources on the internet to learn from, and I highly recommend the use of social media – joining tourette and OCD groups and learning from the discussion of group members. Best of luck from your friends at neurologicallygifted.

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