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Treating Tardive Dyskinesia

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8 Tips for Managing Tardive Dyskinesia

Medically Reviewed By Nicole Washington, DO, MPH

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a medication side effect that can change your daily activities. However, you can work with your doctor to manage TD symptoms, prioritize your well-being, and improve your quality of life.

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Tardive dyskinesia (TD) causes involuntary movements of the face and body. It’s a side effect of taking antipsychotic medications to treat mental health conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression.

In some people, these movements are subtle enough to go unnoticed. When TD symptoms like lip smacking, eye blinking, and jerky movements of the arms and legs are more obvious, they can lead to stress. 

The goal in treating TD is to stop the movements while still managing your mental health condition.

Your doctor might switch your antipsychotic medication to see whether TD symptoms improve. If not, movement disorder medications like deutetrabenazine (Austedo), valbenazine (Ingrezza), onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) injections, or deep brain stimulation might help.

While you work with your doctor to find the right TD treatment, consider implementing several self-care tips for your well-being.

1. Communicate with your doctor

Opening up about TD symptoms may cause various emotions. However, communicating with your doctor about your symptoms and how they affect your daily activities can be the first step toward finding treatment. Consider keeping a diary of your symptoms to reference any changes.

Asking a close friend or relative to be present during your doctors’ appointments may help you feel confident to talk with your medical team.

2. Incorporate movement into your daily routine

Exercise can be beneficial for your physical and emotional health. Plus, you might notice you have fewer TD movements when you exercise.

Talk with your doctor or a physical therapist if the movements interfere with your physical activity. They can teach you exercise modifications to work around your TD symptoms. 

3. Avoid tobacco and caffeine

The nicotine in cigarettes and the caffeine in coffee and soda are stimulants. These substances can make you feel more alert but make TD symptoms severe. Try to limit or avoid stimulants, if possible.

4. Reduce stress

Do your TD symptoms flare up when you’re under stress? Although you can’t always avoid stress, you can manage your response to it. 

Find the stress relief technique that’s right for you. Consider the following:

  • taking a walk outside
  • practicing yoga or Pilates if possible
  • doing a series of gentle stretches
  • meditating
  • drawing or painting
  • listening to your favorite songs

Deep breathing can be a powerful antidote for stress that pops up and can be easy to do. Sit somewhere quiet and slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth for a few minutes, several times a day.

5. Get enough sleep

Nighttime can be a respite from TD because the movements stop while you sleep. Fatigue fatigue could make TD symptoms severe if you don’t sleep well. Talk with your doctor about your sleep schedule to ensure quality sleep.

Some recommendations include setting up a routine by going to bed at the same time and keeping your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Also, you can turn off your phone and computer at least an hour before bed to give your mind time to wind down.

6. Follow a balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet can be good for your body and mind. Work with a registered dietitian to create a personalized meal plan that includes a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy foods.

Ask your doctor about including vitamins and supplements in your nutrition plan.

7. Ask for accommodations

Having a disability may affect a person’s ability to perform traditional types of work. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many companies in the United States must provide accommodations. If you take medication for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression, you may qualify for accommodations. 

Contact your human resources department to ask about accommodations like:

  • a flexible schedule
  • working from home or in a private office
  • adjustments to your job description
  • additional time off

8. Ask for help

Create a support system of family and friends to lean on. Talking with a counselor or therapist can give you additional tools to manage your emotions.

You can also join a support group to meet other people with TD. They can offer suggestions for you to incorporate into your own daily routine. You can find support groups through the National Organization for Tardive Dyskinesia.

While the involuntary movements of TD can be challenging, you can prioritize your quality of life in many ways. Take time to focus on self-care, request work accommodations, and turn to your doctor, mental health professional, and loved ones for support.

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  1. Cornett EM, et al. (2017). Medication-induced tardive dyskinesia: A review and update. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5472076/
  2. Disability evaluation under Social Security. (n.d.). https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm
  3. GREAT: Helpful practices to manage stress and Anxiety (2021). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/media/2021/great-helpful-practices-to-manage-stress-and-anxiety
  4. Ricciardi L, et al. (2019). Treatment recommendations for tardive dyskinesia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6591749/
  5. Tardive dyskinesia. (2023). https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/tardive-dyskinesia

Medical Reviewer: Nicole Washington, DO, MPH
Last Review Date: 2023 Aug 4
View All Treating Tardive Dyskinesia Articles
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