Disinhibition and Prosblemania

Executive Brief: Over 40 years ago (c. 1981), I was diagnosed as coprolalic and copropraxic. I have been masking those behaviors for as long as I can remember (c. 1964-ish, b. 1962). Those labels fall under the umbrella of Tourette Syndrome (TS). Because I have access to premonitory urges, my control of the disinhibitions is considered to be “semivoluntary.” So my personal, individual experience of TS has largely involved only the gestural urges (and not the tics, for example); unfortunately, verbal and gestural expulsions have come to represent TS in the public mind, well out of proportion to the number of people who are affected in this specific way.

I also live with related compulsions for which there are no such conventionally defined labels, such as experiencing “the call of the void” (Fr. l’appel du vide), plus a drive into impulsive expressions over instances of perceived injustice. And then of course there’s the urge to laugh at funerals and so on, where my brother and I learned (not fast enough) never to attend such events together. For me, these states all revolve around a sort of rebellion against oppressive decorum, or the disinhibted urge to give offense by breaking social rules.

These are not voluntary choices for me.

Within TS, this specific sort of subset might usefully be tied together with a term along the lines of prosblemania (Ancient Gk.  προσβλημανία), namely “the compulsive urge to give offence.” I don’t think that this term is currently being used for anything else. 

So, without further ado:

I hereby publicly remove this mask. I am prosblemanic, within the larger world of TS.

The material below explains why this particular decision has been so very long in the making… so very much longer than any of the other decisions of its type.



I am Autistic. I received the official diagnosis just a few months ago (2023-11). I am one of those people who gets told that they “don’t look Autistic” (usually to mean that I don’t flap), while others will say, “You know, of course, that everyone thinks that you’re Autistic.” So I am not Autistic enough for some people, but not typical enough for others. Of course, the understanding of autism has also been changing.

I have been open about other identifications, such as Empathic, Highly-Sensitive Person, creative schizotypy, and so on. There are folks who take exception to some or all of those characterizations as well, sometimes quite angrily (“You are not special!”); however, in none of these cases did I ever hesitate to identify myself, albeit there were some significant delays in getting some things sorted out to the point where – having secured professional diagnoses – I  could feel objectively supported enough to make such statements with confidence.

When I was a child, I masked my disinhibition in order to avoid the punishment associated with the stigma. As I got older, I came to be far less concerned about the punishment (at least for my own sake); however, I continued to mask for reasons other than the stigma.

The continued masking (and outright hiding) of the compulsive urge to offend has been more complicated, and is associated in part with my typically being treated as privileged. It is important that people who tend to be perceived to be DP members (myself included), and who benefit from the associated privileges (likewise), are not allowed to lightly associate themselves with groups of people who are victimized by the DP. Some privileged people are known to lie about their identifications for personal gain.

I didn’t want my rather circumscribed identification within TS to trivialize what other people were experiencing, and I didn’t know of a way to talk about my specific situation that wouldn’t just mess things up. After much contemplation and struggling, I have now decided that I should try to say something anyway, as my silence has already created a different kind of mess.

Masking Disinhibition

At a metalevel, there is some circularity when trying to mask disinhibition; that is to say, masking one’s compromised disinhibition is (a) an inhibition imposed with erratic success by (b) someone whose inhibition skills are compromised (and sometimes essentially absent), where their intent is (c) to avoid the consequences of (d) their inhibition being compromised. Around and around it goes.

My heightened sensitivity to premonitory urges (which is a luxury that not everyone enjoys in their experience of TS) has allowed me a substantial amount of success in controlling the expression of such urges; in other words, for decades I have been masking like a mad fiend, where “mad fiend” is a euphemism that my brother offered for the both of us to use instead of feeling compelled to blurt out mofo, or something even worse (shall we say). I airily disguised my failures by dismissing them as part of my irreverent personality, and similar.

I still get chastised at work if I don’t mask my disinhibition, where that environment is high in both stress and authoritarian social repression (from some management leaders).

Even seemingly innocuous instances can trigger abuse. On a Zoom call attended by a new administrator, during a stressful conversation, I failed to suppress an urge to say “shit” instead of “stuff” (which is truly the least offensive of all of my urges), and that director (who just happens to be a religious fellow) instantly decided that lecturing me about my lack of professionalism was the team’s highest priority, rather than the welfare of the student about whom we were meeting. My failure to monitor that urge indirectly placed that student at risk. This sort of abuse is a common DP tactic to keep outsiders in line, namely, they threaten the welfare of the student unless people follow their hollow rules of decorum.

So I know that I will still mask when such people wield that power over children.

And I will avoid some social venues in which I know that I am expected to be polite, quiet, or both; for example, attending a choir concert is not torture, but it is definitely not a pleasant, relaxing evening for me, even as much as I deeply admire the performers. Imagine having an intense tickle in your throat, except that instead of giving in to a cough, you are driven by an urge to burst out with a loud, “mad fiend!” (or rather worse) right after you hear “sleep in heavenly peace.” You feel a general urge all along, pretty much as soon as you get into the venue with the crowd, but the pressure gets more intense when the hush falls over the audience, plus you also know that the line about ‘peace’ is coming up. Your insides are offering up a stream of impolite invective, some of which is much more creative than others, and more funny… so you are also trying not to laugh. If you can leave, then you will do so without disrupting the performance, but if you can’t, then you will cover your mouth to pretend that you are stifling a cough.

Or something like that.

Anything to mask.

Well, okay, almost anything.

Not Masking Disinhibition

I have long considered being more open about my disinhibition; however, the decision has never been straightforward.

I still hesitate to identify myself with TS more generally, but not due to fear of the stigmatization. People vary in their understanding of TS, and such a statement would risk a misunderstanding, such as that I might be characterizing myself as fitting across the system more broadly than I do. I don’t want to give the misimpression that I am a DP member who is lying in order to reap personal benefit (i.e., malingering), such as if I were blaming run-of-the-mill swearing or callousness on TS. I do not want to be taken to engage in, condone, or legitimize such behavior.

Crucially, one kind of malingering is a sort of social immunization, where people claim to have just enough membership in a group to receive the benefits, but not enough to bear the responsibility of truly belonging. Sometimes that benefit is simply the spurious denial of the responsibilities inherent in being privileged. “What, me, privileged? Oh, heavens to Betsy! No, I can’t even have any ableist prejudices to examine because I have Tourette’s” (or ASD, ADHD/VAST, OCD, and so on). And then they pretend to give you a little demonstration of their dis/ability in evidence of their claim, like swearing a little bit, or talking about how they just can’t seem to get organized. (Rank amateurs.)

Or then there’s the grift that goes, “I can’t be racist because I am a descendent of an Indian princess! But don’t abuse me like I would an Indian, though, because when it comes to privilege, I am really all white.” I don’t want to be misunderstood to engage in, condone, or legitimize that kind of crap, either.

And then some privileged people use the laziest version of this tactic in order to be dismissive of the systemic abuse that is waged against difference, as in, “Well, everybody is neurodivergent,” “All lives matter,” and, “Everyone’s at least a little bit racist”. There are solid arguments against each of those positions; for example, I believe that the currently supported clarification is that while some victims of systemic racism might be prejudiced, they cannot be racist. I hope that I have gisted that correctly.

It is important for me to consider the existence of those sorts of lies in our world precisely because I tend to present as a big straight white man. Paradigmatic. Privileged. No scare quotes. I know that I have been accorded privilege my whole life. My understanding of privilege has improved with age, in a cultural environment that has increasingly made opportunities for growth readily available to me. I fully accept all of the responsibilities inherent in having benefited from such privilege.

In identifying as I do, I run a risk of looking like I am immunizing myself (as described above) by asociating with some sort of TS-lite. There are DP members who will take that misinterpretation as a sign of legitimizing their actual attempts to immunize themselves.

Yes, it happens. No, I am not catastrophizing. No, I am not paranoid.

In balance, though, my decision to remain hidden did not promote the safety of others.

In comparison, when I am radically visible, that attention promotes improvement for everybody.

Except, as I said, when kids get threatened when I “step out of line.”

But radicals are rebels.

And rebels defnitively give offense at need. (And sometimes just for fun. Well, their fun, anyway.)

The Consequences

I have been messing around with AI music generation.

I prefer only to use AI for the parts that I cannot do myself. 

So I wrote some lyrics that portray my identification as Autistic, and the story ended up tied to my experience with prosblemania. The song expressed my frustration with being treated as not Autistic enough by those who are underinformed, where I am usually forced to be silent or polite in the face of that treatment. That frustration gave rise to urges to express myself without being worried about giving offense. I was feeling uninhibited. Part of the song was inspired by a joke that my brother told me a long time ago, when our affiliation with disinhibition was becoming increasingly apparent.

No, I am not going to tell it here.

The first version is not family friendly at all, especially if you know any Italian (which was part of my childhood). I sent it out to a few people in my neurodiverse friend group, and it was kindly pointed out to me that it might not go over well with the “Tourette’s crowd.” I don’t think that anyone among that group of friends knows that I overlap said crowd, mostly because I have been deliberately hiding my affiliation from nearly everyone, so that is entirely my fault.

Which means that I then made another version of the song that removes that joke (or at least its teeth), tones everything way down, and has humorously infantilized the insults.

The softer version is available on the Ymaginary Studios site. I am not sure yet what I will do with the other one.


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