Coprolalia is a neurological condition that affects the speech impulses and results in the uncontrollable and involuntary use of swear words, derogatory words, or other words or phrases that tend to be considered offensive or socially unacceptable. In addition to the sudden outburst of words, the speech itself may be louder or spoken in a different tone than normal. This condition tends to be associated as a symptom of Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes tics, or uncontrollable movements. Less commonly, this involuntary swearing may be a symptom of other neurological impairments.
Although coprolalia is often mainly associated with a person involuntarily saying swear words, it can involve the usage of any words that are considered inappropriate for a social situation. For instance, a person with the condition may involuntarily blurt out racial slurs or use words that may be considered vulgar. This can result in severe embarrassment or social anxiety for people with the condition. In addition to speaking words aloud, the condition may also cause a person to mentally repeat inappropriate words, making it difficult to concentrate.
Coprolalia is thought to be the result of a type of malfunctioning of certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that the brain transports throughout the body. Neurotransmitters deliver messages to different areas of the body from the brain that trigger movements or other actions. If something goes wrong with the transportation of neurotransmitters, it may cause the body to mistakenly cause impulses that the brain did not want triggered. This may result in uncontrollable movements and speech. It is not conclusively known what causes a person’s brain to have these neurotransmitter malfunctions, but genetics is thought to be a possible culprit.
Since the precise cause of coprolalia is not known for sure, the condition does not have a proven cure; however, it can be treated to reduce the prevalence and severity of the uncontrollable outbursts. One of the most common types of possible treatment option is the usage of botulinum toxin, also more commonly referred to as Botox®, a type of toxic bacterium that may be injected near the vocal cords. Botox® temporarily paralyzes the muscles near the injection area and can cause vocal outbursts to be quieter, but does not generally reduce their prevalence. Some people may find an increased frequency in uncontrollable speech when they are experiencing high levels of stress; therefore, some patients may find working with a therapist to learn stress reduction exercises helps lessen the severity of the condition.