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Coprolalia: the unstoppable urge to say obscenities

Coprolalia: the unstoppable urge to say obscenities

May 6, 2021

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

A phenomenon called coprolalia It shows us that, when some changes are made in our nervous system, the involuntary and automatic component on which cognitive functions are based, such as the use of language, is revealed.

What is coprolalia?

Etymologically, the origin of the term coprolalia is the union of two Greek words that mean "stool", and "babble". Coprolalia or cacolalia is the tendency to say obscene words and phrases impulsively, without having control over it , in a sustained manner over time. Normally, these curses and bad phrases are pronounced in a voice higher than normal, as if it were explosions of rage, and each time this is done, a feeling of guilt may appear.


The reason for this is that coprolalia is a pathological tendency related to a type of disinhibition. What can not be inhibited in cases of coprolalia has to do, precisely, with words and expressions that are not accepted socially or that are linked to aggressive behavior. People with this tendency can, for example, insult someone and immediately afterwards show their repentance .

Behind the coprolalia there is a very stereotyped thinking pattern that is repeated many times: attention is drawn to thoughts that have to do with taboo or unpleasant ideas, and then these ideas are expressed verbally immediately, as if it were something irresistible , and involuntarily.


The eschatological verbalizations in the coprolalia

Coprolalia is a pathological tendency based on impulses towards eschatological verbalizations, but also towards derogatory comments, malignant words in general and ideas that are taboo. These verbalizations can be single words or they can be more or less complex phrases.

For example, it is frequent that in cases of coprolalia many words referring to the genitals or sexual acts are said , and insults may also appear to people who may or may not be around at that time.

Coprolalia in Tourette Syndrome

Coprolalia is one of the symptoms most associated with Tourette Syndrome, a hereditary disorder in which the person reproduces many verbal tics and motor unintentionally. Unpleasant verbalizations are one of the repetitive and involuntary components of these tics, and Coprolalia is one of the symptoms that can generate greater social rejection .


Although less than half of the people affected by Tourette Syndrome have coprolalia, being one of the most striking symptoms has been culturally associated with it, as if it were an essential and unbreakable component of the syndrome. In this regard, the case of the Chilean boy Agustín Arenas, "Súper Taldo", whose verbalizations and tics became viral in the 90s is very well known in Latin America.

Another phenomenon similar to coprolalia and which are also associated with Tourette Syndrome is the copropraxia , the tendency to perform involuntary and impulsive obscene and inappropriate gestures.

Causes of coprolalia

It is currently unknown exactly what is the biological cause of coprolalia , that is, the physical and chemical anomalies in the structure and functioning of the brain that cause these verbalizations to appear. However, it is assumed that coprolalia is produced by the same abnormalities in the functioning of inhibition mechanisms that cause involuntary tics to appear in people with Tourette Syndrome.

That is, hypothetically people who have coprolalia can not repress thoughts related to obscenities, and have to be expressed aloud as if they were driving an escape valve that prevents a great discomfort accumulate as they are inhibited ideas

Coping strategies

There is no known form of treatment that guarantees the total disappearance of the signs of coprolalia, and that is why the best way to contribute to improving the quality of life of the people who experience it has to go through teaching them coping strategies . That is to say, ways to best manage the presence of coprolalia .

These coping strategies are usually related to looking for ways to deaden obscene verbalizations, for example by pronouncing only the first letters of the word that is going to be spoken or by mumbling it.However, in some cases these strategies will not be effective, as it is very difficult to predict when those words will be pronounced.

Beyond these methods, a highly 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, paralyzing them in part and causing the volume and intensity to decrease. of these outbursts.


The Tourette's Dictionary (May 2021).


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