Amir Khan, a Singaporean mixed martial arts sensation, is the most recent athlete to speak out about how his Tourette syndrome has enhanced his ability to succeed.
“I don’t mind living with (Tourette syndrome), it doesn’t really affect me. But I’m trying to control it every day, slowly, and as I get older hopefully it’ll reduce,” Khan told Yahoo.
Tourette syndrome as defined by the National Tourette Syndrome Association is a neurological disorder with the symptoms of involuntary, rapid and repetitive movements of the face, arms, limbs or trunk called tics. Over 200,000 Americans have Tourette syndrome, the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke reported, and although the disorder may make everyday life difficult, some with this condition claim these tics actually serve as an advantage for them.
With seemingly no overt campaign or publicity push, there have been several high profile individuals with Tourette syndrome who have spoken to media outlets about how the disorder has worked to their advantage.
The goalkeeper for the USA national soccer team, Tim Howard, told ABC News that he thinks his Tourette syndrome does not hurt him on the field, but gives him faster reflexes than his opponents. He broke the record for most saves in a World Cup match this past summer in Brazil.
In the same story, Olympic swimmer Anthony Ervin, who took gold at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and recently reclaimed the national championship title in the 50-meter freestyle, said his tics help him be a faster swimmer.
"The way that I have come to understand my Tourette’s is that there is an over excitation of the nervous system. I can channel all that nervousness better than a majority of my competitors," Ervin said.
Entertainers with Tourette syndrome explained how their tics help them in their stage performances.
Cameron Hite, a Maryville College senior and theater major, spoke with The Daily Times on how his Tourette syndrome has inspired him to write an autobiographical play about a fictional character with the same condition.
“When I’m on stage, I’m able to leave it all behind," he said. "It’s like this magical thing that happens, where I don’t even think about it.”
Ben Klingberg, a comedian in Australia, explained to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation how he uses comedy to help control his Tourette syndrome.
"As part of the condition I'm naturally very self-conscious, to the point where I'm very mindful of how I'm interacting with other people because of the controlling of the tic," he said. "(Stand-up comedy) helped to reduce the anxiety, a bit, that I feel about interacting with people. It's given me a little bit more self-confidence."
Not only can those with Tourette syndrome have productive careers, but they can thrive in other aspects of their lives.
Johanna Elsemore, a columnist, opened up with The Huffington Post about her battle with her Tourette syndrome. She said people with Tourette syndrome can lead very normal lives and they should not let their disorder discourage them.
"Today I'm happily married, have a good job and a loving network of friends. My life is as normal as I would ever want life to be. But my biggest fear at age 10 wasn't the dark, or monsters under my bed. My biggest fear was that I would never live a normal life. I wish someone could have told that scared little girl that not only would she grow up to be functional, she would grow up to be successful."
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