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Many people hear that someone is in recovery and think it is the end of their mental health problems. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Recovery has to do with “daily maintenance” of actions that are outlined in an individual recovery plan. Also, these actions often have to be adjusted based on certain situations that arise in recovery. This is often the case when something like tardive dyskinesia manifests while in recovery.

Understanding Tardive Dyskinesia

When tardive dyskinesia manifests, it can be concerning. This is especially true with tardive dyskinesia in recovery because its symptoms can overshadow all of the hard work that an individual has put in to control their issues of mental illness and/or addiction.

The term tardive dyskinesia can be a bit alarming when we first hear it. However, it is not as complicated as its moniker would have us believe. According to the peer-reviewed Ochsner Journal: 

The term dyskinesia refers to involuntary muscle movements that can range from slight tremors to uncontrollable movement of the entire body. The tardive dyskinesia (TD) form of dyskinesia gets its name from the slow—or tardive—onset of involuntary movements of the face, lips, tongue, trunk, and extremities. TD most generally occurs in individuals who are on long-term treatment with dopaminergic antagonist medications (antipsychotic drugs [APDs]).

Of course, reading about uncontrollable body movements is one thing, but experiencing them is something else altogether. Understandably, when anything out of our control manifests, we want to know where it comes from.

What Causes Tardive Dyskinesia

The primary cause of tardive dyskinesia in recovery (and elsewhere) comes from certain medications. These medications primarily exist in the category of antipsychotic medication.

Antipsychotic medications are generally used to treat psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and its related disorders. These disorders include delusional disorder, schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform disorder, and schizotypal disorder (personality disorder). Antipsychotic medications can also be used to treat certain types of bipolar and depressive disorders.

Of course, more important than what causes tardive dyskinesia is how it can best be treated. The good news is that there are many effective ways by which it can be treated, and being in recovery makes effective treatment all the more possible.

Managing Tardive Dyskinesia in Recovery

Since tardive dyskinesia in recovery is often caused by medication, focusing on the medication is the foundation of tardive dyskinesia management. This includes adjusting, eliminating, and switching medications.

According to the comprehensive clinical article titled Treatment Recommendations for Tardive Dyskinesia, “Preventing tardive dyskinesia is of primary importance, and clinicians should follow best practice for prescribing antipsychotic medication, including limiting the prescription for specific indications, using the minimum effective dose, and minimizing the duration of therapy. The first-line management of tardive dyskinesia is the withdrawal of antipsychotic medication if clinically feasible. Yet, for many patients with serious mental illness, the discontinuation of antipsychotics is not possible due to disease relapse.” Of course, this “disease relapse” is something to be avoided now that an individual has achieved a healthy level of recovery.

How to Manage Tardive Dyskinesia in Recovery

One way to manage tardive dyskinesia in recovery is to maintain a strict focus on a set recovery plan. If this focus is already happening then an individual will have the type of connection with the recovery peers and professionals that can help them determine the proper steps to take.

Of course, one’s recovery peers exist to support an individual with any struggles that come up in recovery, but recovery professionals are those who should be relied upon when it comes to making determinations regarding medication and medication management.

Recovery professionals such as psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and clinicians will have the knowledge and insight to help individuals determine what to do if tardive dyskinesia arises. They will be able to help someone struggling to determine whether the benefits of a medication outweigh the discomfort of tardive dyskinesia in recovery. Medical professionals will also be able to try different avenues and types of medications that may be able to reduce the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia while also avoiding a potential mental health relapse. Ultimately, the key is to weigh the pros and cons and find a comfortable balance.

The Long-Term Recovery Mission of The Phoenix Recovery Center

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we understand that recovery is a process, not a destination. We also understand how important it is to receive continued support after treatment.

We believe that a fulfilled life is best lived with the least amount of distractions, especially those that arise from medication side effects such as tardive dyskinesia. Tardive dyskinesia can be out of our control, but doing something about it is not. We can help.

If you or someone you love is struggling with issues of mental illness, we can help. For more information on tardive dyskinesia, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center at (801) 438-3185.

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