Billie Eilish is an international pop icon, a multiple Grammy Award-winner, and Oscar winner — and she lives every day with Tourette Syndrome. Tourette’s is a rare nervous system disorder that presents with repetitive and uncontrolled movements (like blinking or shoulder shrugging) or sounds called “tics” The disorder starts in childhood; Billie has stated in the past that she’s had it her “whole life.” Here’s what you need to know about the “Bad Guy” singer’s experience with Tourette Syndrome:
A History Of Billie’s Condition
While Billie has spoken openly about her experience with Tourette Syndrome, she wouldn’t go into much detail about her initial diagnosis until she talked to David Letterman in 2022 on the season four premiere of his Netflix series, My Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman. “I actually really love answering questions about it because it’s very, very interesting,” she told Letterman, “and I am incredibly confused by it and I don’t get it.”
Billie revealed that she was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome when she was eleven and had minor tics growing up. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Tourette Syndrome, on average, presents in children between the ages of three and nine.
She also explained in the My Guest Needs No Introduction interview what her tics were. “I never, like, don’t tic at all because the main tics that I do constantly all day long are, like, I wiggle my ear back and forth and, like, raise my eyebrow and click my jaw and do that and flex my arm here and flex this arm and flex these muscles,” she explained. “These are things you would never notice, like, if you’re just having a conversation with me. But for me, they’re very exhausting.”
Billie earlier said that “certain things” can increase the intensity or trigger episodes. Fans who made compilations of her tics on YouTube gathered clips of the “No Time To Die” singer shrugging her shoulders, blinking rapidly, and looking upward. She told fans in the Instagram post revealing her diagnosis that she does think the videos are “low-key funny.”
Billie Reveals Her Diagnosis To Fans On IG
After the compilation video made the rounds, Billie was left with no choice but to speak on the matter. “I would love to get this straight so everyone can stop acting goofy… I have [have been] diagnosed [with] Tourette’s. I’ve never mentioned it on the internet because nobody thinks I’m deadass… as well as the fact that I’ve never wanted people to think of Tourette’s every time they think of me,” Billie wrote in November 2018 (per Billboard).
“My tics are only physical and not super noticeable to others if you’re not really paying attention (believe me, HAVING them is a whole different type of misery),” she continued. “My Tourette’s makes easy things a lot harder. Certain things increase and/or trigger the intensity of the tics. But it’s something I grew up with and am used to. My family and closest friends know it as a part of me. I’ve taught myself techniques to help reduce them when I don’t want to be distracting in certain situations. But again, suppressing them only makes things worse after the moment is over.”
Billie said she wasn’t “gonna go into FULL detail but if you want to know more, I am an open book. Wasn’t planning on talking about this on here maybe ever, but it’s gotten to a point… lol. These compilations y’all been making of my tics are low-key funny even when y’all make fun of them n sh*t. I know you’re all confused so as to what it is, so just to let ya know… it’s Tourette’s.”
While speaking with Letterman in 2022, Billie said that she doesn’t tic when she’s performing or focused on tasks like singing or songwriting. “When I’m moving around, I’m not even ticcing at all, you know?” she told the former Late Show host. “When I’m riding my horse, I’m not ticcing.”
Billie Opens Up More About Tourette’s In Interviews
Billie revealed more about living with Tourette Syndrome in an April 2019 interview with Ellen Degeneres. The “Everything I Wanted” singer said on Ellen (watch above) that she hadn’t spoken publicly about her condition before because “I just never said anything because I didn’t want that to define who I was.” But, she was glad that she opened up. “I think I also really learned that a lot of my fans have it, which made me feel kind of more at home with saying it, and also I felt like there was a connection there,” Billie shared.
That’s not the only interview Billie has done about Tourette’s. She gave fans insight into what her episodes are like while speaking to Fader one month prior. “It’s confusing when someone is making a weird face gesture or throwing out their neck,” Billie said. “The internet hasn’t really seen the bad ones, because I’m really good at suppressing them. The thing is, the longer you suppress them, the worse they get afterwards,” she explained. “I’m sure one day everyone will see the tic attacks that happen when I’m stressed and haven’t slept. But it could be a lot worse, and it’s not, and I’m grateful for that. And you know what, it’s f**king whatever.”
In 2022, David Letterman asked Billie if she would ever “damn” her Tourette syndrome symptoms. “Yes. Now, I don’t,” she said. “It’s not like I like it, but I feel like it’s a part of me. I have made friends with it. So now, I’m pretty, like, confident in it.”