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Sweet Anita: Tourette’s Queen Of Twitch

August 13, 2021

Anita, 30, is a full-time carer for her mum. For the hundreds of thousands of gamers who visit her on Twitch, she’s also known as the sassy and challenging Sweet Anita, a video gamer and streamer. But for a while she was waiting to be thrown off the platform for breaking all the rules.

With practised self-awareness, Anita broadcasts a daily mix of gaming, chatting with other streamers and fun challenges like building card towers.

She has Tourette’s syndrome – a neurological condition which amongst other things causes people to make involuntary sounds or movements.

Though it’s a condition which is better known in recent years, people are still full of questions because of its nature.

When she first started broadcasting on the well-known platform Twitch, Anita feared she would be thrown off because her verbal tics are of the kind known as coprolalia, where you might swear or say inappropriate things.

Anita has cussed everyone from the Queen through to Jesus and beyond as well as making many explicit references to sex acts, body parts and what your parents would think of as the worst swear words.

“It feels like you’re being physically forced to say these things,” she says. “I get this very strong urge. And if I don’t do it, then I become incredibly stressed and distracted.”

When she feels the tic coming, she says it’s “agonising” and would be inclined to stifle it if there wasn’t such a great feeling of release after it.

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What is Tourette’s syndrome?

  • As well as verbal it can also manifest as involuntary movements of the body, like in the eyes or shoulders, as well as being associated with OCD, ADHD, and learning disabilities.
  • It usually starts during childhood, but the tics and other symptoms can sometimes improve after several years or even go away completely.
  • The cause of Tourette’s syndrome is unknown. It’s thought to be linked to a part of the brain that helps regulate body movements.

Source: NHS

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As a child, Anita was a keen user of the PlayStation 1 and Super Nintendo, and would never have considered gaming as a career until, when playing a game online, other players suggested she should try it.

She had long enjoyed playing online games like Overwatch, a team game set 60 years in the future where you play as characters called heroes and fight to complete missions together.

While playing, she came across a fellow gamer who had a channel on which he broadcast himself gaming and profited from it.

He immediately assumed she was a fellow streamer because she was very talkative on the game’s voice chat – a common feature in online games which allows you to discuss tactics and chat to other players by using a headset with a microphone.

It planted an idea in Anita’s mind. She thought: “If I’m doing exactly everything that you need to be a streamer, I might as well give it a go.” So she headed towards Twitch.

Like many beginners, Anita began small by broadcasting to her friends, and waited for what she thought would be an inevitable ban due to the language she uses.

As someone with Tourette’s, she is used to this kind of reaction.

“There are terms and conditions on Twitch which say that you can’t be abusive, you can’t use racial slurs and phobic slurs, and my tics force me to,” she says.

When nothing happened, she carried on broadcasting and was particularly pleased to see staff from the platform amongst other viewers of her stream.

She appreciated the encouragement they gave her.

Donations from fans and paid subscriptions have gradually turned this into a full-time job for Anita who now streams six days a week to thousands of people.

“When strangers started to find me, it was a surprise. And when they stayed, it was even more surprising. And when I started to be able to buy food because I played games with my friends – it wasn’t just surprising, it was awesome.”

While playing, she talks to her viewers and answers questions from them. A regular query she gets is what her weirdest tic is.

Anita is open to these personal questions and admits there is a particular tic that “weirds out” her friends.

Withholding the full detail, she says: “It involves heavy eye contact and an obscene gesture.”

For the most part, Anita’s viewers know what to expect from her and appear to enjoy being part of what you might call her inner circle.

This means she rarely has to explain herself or apologise unless she directs a previously unseen or offensive tic directly at an individual.

One supportive commenter at the bottom of a YouTube page featuring her “Tourette’s highlights” says: “I feel like Tourette’s is like just letting autocomplete finish your sentence but it’s only the things society tells you not to say.”

That’s how one fan sees it but what about the platform itself? Why haven’t they banned her like Anita expected?

Twitch says it wants to “create a welcoming environment which sets a level of decency and respect for our community.”

To that end it understands the situation and says: “[We are] delighted to support streamers like Anita as they grow their careers and community.”

Though the platform supports Anita’s endeavours, not all of the attention she receives has been positive.

Users on social media such as Reddit have accused Anita of fakery and even mocked her tics.

She says: “I had a massive wave of that when I initially hit the platform.”

Though it was difficult at the time, she is pleased it has allowed her to start discussions about an important matter for her and many others.

Several years on, she now says: “There are more people who believe me than don’t. And there are quite a lot of people who know about Tourette’s syndrome and educate other people.”

As a disabled person she says she knows what it’s like to be “quietly rejected” when applying for jobs and has even been evicted from homes in the past due to low awareness.

“Every time people understand my condition more, the world gets a bit safer for people like me,” she says.

Anita has found a particular niche that works for her right now but had her Twitch channel not taken off, would she be unemployed?

“If I wasn’t streaming I would still be running my own business selling things online, and I would be helping run three animal charities,” she says.

“I could do all of those things from home, where my tics wouldn’t interfere with anything.

“But I’m glad I chanced it and got out there.”

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