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Treating Tardive Dyskinesia

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10 Things You Can Do to Feel in Control of Tardive Dyskinesia

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Jennifer Larson on November 24, 2021
  • Smiling Black man
    Live your best life when you have tardive dyskinesia.
    Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a neurological syndrome known for causing jerky, uncontrolled movements. It often develops after a person has taken a neuroleptic drug for a long period of time. Living with tardive dyskinesia can be challenging, to say the least. You may feel like you’re not fully in control of your body–and your life. Fortunately, you have the power to make some decisions that could help.

  • Woman with doctor
    1. Find a doctor you really like.
    The doctor-patient relationship is key to successful management of any ongoing health condition. When there is a solid base of trust and respect between you and your doctor, you are more likely to experience positive outcomes. Ask yourself if the relationship has four key elements: mutual knowledge, trust, loyalty, and regard. If so, you’re on the right track. But if you feel there’s a mismatch, don’t ignore that feeling. You may need to keep looking for a doctor who can help you manage your tardive dyskinesia to your satisfaction. Some doctors have more experience with TD than others, so if you feel like you’re not getting specialized care, it may be time to make a change.

  • Middle aged Caucasian woman in yoga class with eyes closed meditating
    2. Find a stress reduction strategy that works for you.
    Stress makes everything worse. And sure enough, stress tends to exacerbate tardive dyskinesia, too. If you’re noticing your movements seem worse when you’re feeling tense and anxious, that’s probably why. A successful stress reduction strategy can help you feel a little calmer, which may help keep your symptoms in check. You might find meditation or deep breathing exercises to be an easy method of dialing down your stress levels, or you might prefer a more active approach.

  • Doctor and patient looking at digital tablet
    3. Ask your doctor if you can switch medications.
    Some medications used in the treatment of certain psychiatric, neurological, and gastrointestinal disorders are notorious for causing TD symptoms. That list includes drugs like haloperidol, risperidone, chlorpromazine, aripiprazole, and others. If you’re taking one of them, you might talk to your doctor about decreasing the dose or even switching to a completely different medication instead. Some other antipsychotic medications, such as clozapine and quetiapine, are much less likely to cause significant TD symptoms, which might in turn help you feel less self-conscious and more in control of your body.

  • young woman leaning forward looking at laptop
    4. Seek out others with TD for support.
    Social isolation is a common downstream effect of having tardive dyskinesia. You might feel a little less alone if you connect with other people who have tardive dyskinesia. You might also pick up a few new tricks and strategies for managing your symptoms and maintaining a positive outlook despite having this challenging condition. You can find fellow TD patients through local support groups or connect with people online.

  • Women driving in car
    5. Make transportation arrangements.
    At some point, you may no longer have good enough motor control to drive safely. As a result, you may wind up staying at home more often. Once again, isolation strikes. But in the era of ride-share programs, you don’t have to let this limit you. You can book a ride through an app on your phone that will take you to the grocery store, your chosen place of worship, the movie theater, a book club meeting, or a friend’s house. You can also make transportation arrangements with friends or family members, if you’re comfortable doing so.

  • pills-and-bottles
    6. Try a TD drug.
    Sometimes switching neuroleptic drugs isn’t enough to reduce your symptoms to a more manageable situation. In this case, you might ask your doctor about the possibility of trying a medicine used for treating tardive dyskinesia itself. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two drugs specifically for the symptoms of TD: valbenazine (Ingrezza) and deutetrabenazine (Austedo). These drugs regulate dopamine in your brain, and may reduce your uncontrolled movements. But make sure you talk to your doctor about potential side effects of these types of medicines, too.

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  • woman talking with therapist during counseling session
    7. Talk to a professional.
    When your day-to-day life is interrupted by uncontrolled movements from TD, the frustration, embarrassment, and isolation can take a toll. If your mood is significantly impacted by your condition and you notice prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worry, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, or other new behaviors, you may be experiencing depression or anxiety. Seeking treatment for symptoms of depression and anxiety from a mental healthcare professional may help you to feel better and reduce the impact that your conditions have on your mental health and well-being.

  • smiling middle age man checking pulse while exercising outside
    8. Exercise on a regular basis.
    Get up and move your body. Regular exercise can help you maintain better physical and emotional health. Plus, some people with TD find that focusing intently on a physical activity can lessen TD symptoms during that activity. Consider a daily walk and add an extra five minutes each day to build up your workout. Or consider visiting a gym or studio with a friend who can keep an eye out if you need assistance. Working with a physical therapist might be helpful, too. You can also exercise at home. Check out different online resources for a myriad of exercise videos that will inspire you to move.

  • Man on laptop
    9. Learn as much as you can.
    Ever heard the old expression, “knowledge is power”? This principle definitely applies when you are living with a condition like tardive dyskinesia. Many people don’t know much about TD at all–the causes, the symptoms, the treatments, or the best management strategies. Make it a point to learn as much as you can about tardive dyskinesia. Consult reliable sources for more information about your condition, including treatments and research, and contact your doctor when you have questions and want to know more.

  • young-woman-laying-in-bed-awake
    10. Rest.
    Coping with the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia, in addition to the symptoms of whatever medical condition precipitated it, can be exhausting. You may find it’s harder to control or handle those jerky movements when you’re tired. Give yourself plenty of opportunities to rest and recharge.

Managing Tardive Dyskinesia | Treating Tardive Dyskinesia
  1. Tardive dyskinesia. National Organization for Rare Disorders.
  2. Chipidza FE al. Impact of the Doctor-Patient Relationship. The primary care companion for CNS disorders. 2015;17(5):10.4088/PCC.15f01840.
  3. Tardive dyskinesia. Baylor Medicine.
  4. Tardive dyskinesia. Cleveland Clinic.
  5. Tardive dyskinesia.
  6. Tardive dyskinesia. National Alliance on Mental Illness.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Nov 12
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