Coprolalia: the uncontrollable urge to speak obscenities

When we talk about the rationality of human beings, we often think of our ability to use language, reason through it, and make logical arguments through its use. However, language is not entirely isolated from the irrational side of brain function.

A phenomenon called coprolalia it shows us that when certain changes occur in our nervous system, the involuntary and automatic component upon which cognitive functions such as the use of language rely is revealed.

What is coprolalia?

Etymologically, the origin of the term coprolalia is the union of two Greek words meaning “excrement” and “stuttering”. Coprolalia or cacolalia is the tendency to say obscene words and phrases impulsively, without being in control, Steadily over time. Normally, those bad-sounding words and phrases are pronounced louder than normal, as if they are outbursts of rage, and whenever this is done, a feeling of guilt may arise.

The reason is that coprolalia is a pathological tendency linked to a type of disinhibition. What cannot be inhibited in cases of coprolalia must precisely relate to words and expressions which are not socially accepted or which are linked to aggressive behavior. People with this tendency may, for example, insult someone and immediately show remorse.

Behind coprolalia hides a very stereotypical and often repeated thought pattern: attention is drawn to thoughts that have to do with taboo or unpleasant ideas, then these ideas are immediately expressed verbally, as if they were something irresistible and involuntary.

Eschatological verbalizations in coprolalia

Coprolalia is a pathological tendency based on impulses towards eschatological verbalizations, but also towards derogatory comments, coarse remarks in general and taboo ideas. These verbalizations can be isolated words or more or less complex sentences.

For example, it is common for many words to refer to genitals or sexual acts in cases of coprolalia, And insults can also appear to people who may or may not be present at the moment.

Coprolalia in Tourette’s syndrome

Coprolalia is one of the most associated symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome, an inherited condition in which the person involuntarily reproduces numerous verbal and motor tics. Unpleasant verbalizations are one of the repetitive and involuntary components of these tics, and coprolalia is one of the symptoms that can generate more social rejection.

Although less than half of people with Tourette’s syndrome have coprolalia, one of the most striking symptoms is culturally associated with it, as if it were an essential and inseparable component of the syndrome. In this regard, the case of the Chilean child Agustín Arenas, “Super Taldo”, is well known in Latin America, and the verbalizations and tics went viral in the 1990s.

Another phenomenon similar to coprolalia and which is also associated with Tourette’s syndrome is copropraxy, The tendency to involuntarily and impulsively perform obscene and inappropriate gestures.

Causes of coprolalia

It is currently unknown what exactly is the biological cause of coprolaliaThat is to say, the physical and chemical abnormalities in the structure and functioning of the brain which cause the appearance of these verbalizations. However, it is believed that coprolalia is produced by the same abnormalities in the functioning of inhibitory mechanisms that cause the occurrence of involuntary tics in people with Tourette’s syndrome.

In other words, people with coprolalia cannot suppress thoughts of obscenity and must express them aloud as if they were operating an exhaust valve which prevents a lot of discomfort from building up in them, as these ideas are inhibited.

Adaptation strategies

There is no known form of treatment that guarantees the total disappearance of signs of coprolalia, which is why the best way to help improve the quality of life of those who suffer from it should be to teach. adaptation strategies. In other words, that is to say ways to best manage the presence of coprolalia.

These coping strategies are often linked to finding ways to dampen obscene verbalizations, for example by saying only the first letters of the word to be pronounced or by muttering it between your teeth. However, in some cases, these strategies will not be effective, as it is very difficult to predict when these words will be spoken.

Beyond these methods, a very invasive form of treatment that can reduce the intensity with which coprolalia is expressed is the use of botulinum toxin (botox) near the vocal cords, partially paralyzing them and causing volume. and the intensity of these cramps.

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