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In recovery, there are going to be instances and times when life doesn’t exactly go our way. While we would like everything to run smoothly (especially after putting so much time into attaining recovery), that is simply not how life works. This goes for people both in and out of recovery. This is called “living life on life’s terms,” and it requires both “acceptance” and “action.” The good news is that now that we are in recovery, we can engage in both of those things. This comes in very handy when life starts to get sticky, like when tardive dyskinesia symptoms manifest.

What Is Tardive Dyskinesia?

Tardive dyskinesia can sound more intimidating than what it is. To distill it down, it is a side effect of certain mental health medications that can cause involuntary facial and body movements. Of course, there is more to it than that condensed definition. 

According to the 2019 article, Treatment Recommendations for Tardive Dyskinesia, “Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a movement disorder characterized by irregular movements that most commonly affect movements of the tongue, lips, jaw, and face, and sometimes the peri-orbital areas. In some cases, patients also have irregular movement of the trunk and limbs.” Also, “These movements are typically choreiform or choreoathetoid in type; although, athetosis of the extremities and axial and limb dystonia are often listed as part of the syndrome, as are gait and trunk posture abnormalities, such as rocking or rotary pelvic movements.” Yet, these only scratch the surface of the signs and symptoms of tardive dyskinesia.

What Are Tardive Dyskinesia Symptoms and Early Signs?

As with other types of side effects, the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia tend to be universal for most people. They also tend to be quite apparent (though they do vary in intensity). 

The following are just a few of the tardive dyskinesia symptoms and signs:

  • Involuntary movement of the mouth, jaw, and tongue
  • Smacking of the lips, and sucking of the teeth
  • Uncontrolled moving of the hands and tapping of the feet
  • excessive blinking of the eyes
  • Moving the hips excessively
  • Puffing the cheeks excessively
  • Noticeable heavy breathing
  • Uncontrolled moving of the upper body
  • Constructing facial expressions that cannot be controlled

If any, some, or many of these symptoms start to manifest due to a new medication, it is important to talk to a mental health advocate and/or medical professional as soon as possible. Also, we should never simply stop taking a medication without proper medical assistance and oversight, as the side effects of doing this can be even worse than the initial ones.

What Are Some of the Most Effective Ways to Treat the Symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia?

Since the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia are related to certain medications, the best way to treat it is often to adjust these medications. This might mean reducing dosage or switching to a new type of medication.

According to the article, Medication-Induced Tardive Dyskinesia: A Review and Update, “No FDA-approved treatment for TD is available. Despite progress toward identifying the etiology of medication-induced TD, its cause remains uncertain. Because medications are linked to TD, the obvious solution is to stop the medication, if possible. However, abruptly stopping a medication is likely to cause withdrawal symptoms that could facilitate the onset of TD or withdrawal-emergent dyskinesia.” Abruptly stopping a medication can also be dangerous because there is a potential for “disorder relapse,” meaning there is a greater chance that the disorder being treated might return.

This can be particularly dangerous because the disorders that are often associated with tardive dyskinesia medications tend to be more severe. These are disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar I disorder, and severe depression. Because of this, some people choose to try to treat their tardive dyskinesia with different new medications rather than eliminating the ones that they are on. These medications are often movement disorder medications that adjust the dopamine reception in the brain. The two most common forms of this medication are valbenazine and deutetrabenazine.

Helping in All Aspects of Recovery: The Phoenix Recovery Center

The key to a successful recovery is being malleable to any new issues that may arise. It is important to remember that we got sober so we could be present in our lives, and sometimes being present means facing things that scare us at first, such as noticing the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia. However, being in recovery also means we have the right tools to take the next right actions.

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we believe in living life on life’s terms. We know that yesterday is gone, and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. So, all we have is today, and living for today is what life in recovery is all about.

If you feel like you or a loved one may be exhibiting signs of tardive dyskinesia, we can help. For more information on the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia and how they can best be treated, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT