What is Coprolalia?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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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.


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Post 3

@StarJo – I really feel for people with coprolalia. You know they have got to be so embarrassed that they can't control their words.

It would be awful to shout out racial slurs every time someone of a different race walked by. Though the person might not actually be racist, just the stereotype popping into their mind at first glance could trigger this.

I had issues with uncontrollable thoughts and fixations when I was younger, but I never had problems with coprolalia. So, I sympathize with the victims of this disorder greatly.

Post 2

My mother used to work with a man who had both coprolalia and Tourette's syndrome. He would randomly yell out curse words, but his boss didn't fire him for it, because he was aware of his problem.

The other workers at the factory knew about it, too. Everyone tried hard to ignore his outbursts, but sometimes, it was hard for them not to burst into laughter at the sudden curse words.

It could also get annoying. Some people were really offended by the cursing and quit.

Post 1

What an unfortunate syndrome! I would never leave the house if I had this problem.

It sounds like a psychiatric issue, but if it is caused by malfunctions in neurotransmitters, I could be wrong about that. I suppose if therapy couldn't help, then it would really be physical.

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