Student with Tourette's praises Lewis Capaldi for revealing diagnosis

Capaldi and fellow chart star Billie Eilish have revealed they have Tourette's.

Scottish music student with Tourette’s praises Lewis Capaldi and Billie Eilish for sharing diagnoses STV News

A music student living with Tourette’s has praised Lewis Capaldi for telling fans about his diagnosis.

Joel Smurthwaite, 20, lives in Fife with his family, including his brother, 18, and 13-year-old sister who both also have the condition.

His symptoms include involuntary facial tics and saw him finish every day at school “exhausted” as he tried to suppress sudden movements in the classroom.

Chart star Capaldi told followers on Instagram that he had been diagnosed with Tourette’s because he “didn’t want fans thinking he was taking cocaine or something”.

Joel told STV News: “I was always low in energy. I kept thinking ‘people are looking at me’, ‘will they make fun of me?’.

“It made it really difficult to focus on work. The stress made the tics worse. It can be a vicious cycle.

“I was lucky to have a big group of friends who supported me on my bad days, but it affected me quite badly when I was first diagnosed. It was tough.”

What is Tourette’s?

The NHS describes Tourette’s as “a condition that causes a person to make involuntary sounds and movements called tics“.

Singer Billie Eilish went public in May about her own diagnosis aged 11. Capaldi also opened up about his condition, telling fans he’s had Botox injections in his shoulder to help control “painful” tics.

Most people with Tourette’s experience a strong urge before a tic, which has been compared to the feeling you get before needing to itch or sneeze.

These feelings are known as premonitory sensations, which are only relieved after the tic has been carried out.

Symptoms typically begin in childhood, peaking before puberty.

‘Guitar is my therapy’

Doctors told Joel he had Tourette’s, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)  aged 11 following his younger brother’s diagnosis.

He underwent years of therapy to deal with his conditions and takes medication to help control his symptoms.

But it was his passion for music that has helped him the most – he plays in a band and currently studies a degree in audio engineering.

Joel began guitar lessons at around 11 or 12 and found it therapeutic.

“I noticed when I began playing guitar, it’s the only thing that stops my symptoms completely,” he said. “It gives you something to focus on. It’s my therapy.

“Many people with Tourette’s who have a passion tend to hyperfocus on their passions.”

Joel also uses his experiences to help other young people and educators. He volunteers with Tourette’s Scotland and helps his mum Elaine, an outreach worker at the charity, deliver training to schools.

He said celebrities such as Eilish and Capaldi speaking out about their conditions helped shed light on the “highly misunderstood” condition.

“I was really excited when I saw Billie Eilish speak about it,” Josh said. “They have such big platforms to raise awareness and shed some light on it.

“People don’t get how complex it is. They see it on TV shows and think it’s swearing – a lot of the time it’s presented as entertainment when it really affects people quite badly.

“People seem scared to talk about Tourette’s, but you’ll get along a lot easier in life if you are fairly open about it.

“I’d tell anyone newly diagnosed that it might seem scary, but there’s a lot of support out there. it’s not as rare as you think.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code