5 Self-Care Tips for Managing the Symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia
About 25% of people who take antipsychotic medication for a long time develop a side effect called tardive dyskinesia (TD). It’s a movement disorder that causes uncontrollable jerking in the neck, face, lips, and tongue. TD can also be caused by certain medications for nausea, as well as underlying conditions, including fetal alcohol syndrome and Parkinson’s disease. Learn what you can do to get ahead of symptoms and help reduce their severity.
1. Check in with your doctor regularly.
If you start experiencing symptoms of tardive dyskinesia, tell your doctor right away. Doctors can also perform regular tests to diagnose TD in the early stages. The sooner you know you have TD, the sooner your doctor may be able to adjust your treatment plan before symptoms get worse. Options include changing the dose of your current medication, switching to a new one, or adding medicine that treats TD. Some people also benefit from taking vitamin E or supplements such as gingko biloba, manganese, melatonin, or lecithin. Don’t add natural remedies on your own, though. Get your doctor’s advice first.
2. Lower your stress level.
Stress can exacerbate tardive dyskinesia symptoms, but there are many ways to reduce it. Whatever relaxes you, make it a priority, whether it’s taking a long bath, reading a great book, pursuing a hobby, playing with your dog, or getting out into nature. Consider incorporating more formal methods for staying calm into your routine, such as:
- Breathing exercises
- Relaxation techniques
3. Exercise more.
Staying physically active not only helps bust stress, but also improves mood, keeps your muscles strong, and helps you sleep better. If you already have an exercise routine, stick with it, unless you find it makes your symptoms worse instead of better. Consider adding light activities such as walking or gardening. Just remember to make your doctor aware of your plans so you can monitor your progress together.
4. Get high-quality sleep.
Poor-quality sleep has been linked to tardive dyskinesia. Does it take a while for you to fall asleep? Do you wake up feeling unrested? Does your energy fade fast throughout the day? Check your sleep experience against the National Sleep Foundation’s key signs of quality sleep:
- Falling asleep within 30 minutes of trying
- Staying asleep through most of the night—not waking up more than once
- Getting seven to nine hours of continuous sleep
If your sleep quality doesn’t measure up, your doctor may be able to add a sleep specialist to your healthcare team.
5. Line up support.
Living with tardive dyskinesia—or even the possibility of developing it—can be challenging. You’ll likely need some assistance. Your first line of defense should be your doctor and your healthcare team. It can also help to shore up your personal resources. Identify someone you can talk with when times feel tough or find a support group of people who understand what you’re going through.
Remember, as hard as living with TD can be, there’s always something you can do to help make it easier. The options are out there—ready and waiting.