Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a movement disorder that causes a range of muscle movements in the face, neck, torso, arms and legs. TD symptoms are beyond a person’s control. These symptoms can make routine physical functioning difficult, significantly affecting quality of life.

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a real, chronic condition associated with taking certain mental health medicines (antipsychotics) and some people may experience mild, moderate or severe uncontrollable TD movements in the face, torso, limbs, and fingers or toes. Movements may appear rapid and jerky or slow and writhing. TD is unlikely to improve without treatment

Symptoms of TD can include:

  • Jerking hand and leg movements
  • Neck twisting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Eye blinking and grimacing
  • Lip smacking and involuntary tongue movements

What Causes TD?

Taking certain mental health medicines (antipsychotics) for a while is thought to result in too much dopamine activity in the brain, which could lead to uncontrolled body movements known as TD.These medicines may have been prescribed to treat one of the following conditions:

  • Depression 
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Schizoaffective disorder 
  • Anxiety disorder 

 Other prescription medicines used to treat upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting may also cause TD. 

Anyone taking an antipsychotic may develop TD, but the risk of TD can be higher for certain people:

  • Older adults
  • Females
  • Those with a family history of TD
  • Person with substance use disorder

How Is Tardive Dyskinesia Treated?

No matter if you have mild, moderate, or severe uncontrollable body movements, the first step on your treatment journey is talking with a healthcare provider.

While your primary care physician may be the healthcare provider you’re used to seeing, they may refer you to a psychiatrist, neurologist, or other provider who has more experience diagnosing and treating tardive dyskinesia (TD). Find a healthcare provider with experience diagnosing and treating TD.

It is important to work with your prescriber and have honest conversations about your symptoms, treatment and any changes you feel are affecting your health.

How Else Can I Manage Tardive Dyskinesia?

Your health care provider will continue to monitor your symptoms and treatment plan, but you can also take an active role in your care to help manage TD:

  • Make sure you have a routine symptom assessment every three months
  • Keep track of your symptoms and let your provider know about any new ones
  • Talk to your provider about your daily functioning and quality of life
  • Practice self-care that includes physical activity

Exercise can help relieve movement symptoms, including tremors and those related to balance, gait and flexibility. It also helps balance blood sugar levels and improve hormonal balance for better management of type 2 diabetes.

Additional Resources

TD Fact Sheet

Doctor Discussion Guide

TD Telehealth Fact Sheet

Test your TD knowledge

Print Patient Brochure

Talk about TD and Find a Specialist