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The great American philosopher and poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, once said, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” This is the embodiment of what it means to push through when times get tough in recovery. Perseverance is critical in recovery, as dwelling on any little setback can mean a potential relapse. These setbacks include the side effects of mental health medications that may pop up. However, with proper symptom management, these side effects can be effectively navigated. 

What Are Some Common Side Effects of Mental Health Medications?

As with any medication, mental health medications often come with side effects. These can be both minor and more severe. They also tend to be very individualized.

However, some more universal side effects come along with mental health medications (such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, anxiolytics, and mood stabilizers). The following are just a few of the more common side effects of mental health medications:

  • Becoming lethargic and/or overly drowsy
  • Felling excessively dizzy
  • Having a dry mouth
  • Experiencing blurred vision
  • Having gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea and constipation
  • Excessive weight gain and weight loss
  • Experiencing a loss of sex drive, or feeling overly sexually stimulated
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling overly anxious and/or depressed

Another symptom of mental health medication that seems to be more prevalent is something known as tardive dyskinesia. Yet, it is still relatively unknown to anyone outside of the mental health field.

What Is Tardive Dyskinesia?

Tardive dyskinesia is a side effect of antipsychotic medications that can be rather concerning when it first manifests. This is because it can be a very noticeable side effect.

As Ochsner Journal explains, “The term dyskinesia refers to involuntary muscle movements that can range from slight tremor 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.” Also, “TD occurs in 20%-50% of patients taking [antspychotic drugs].” However, those are not the only signs and symptoms of tardive dyskinesia.

Some of the other warning signs of tardive dyskinesia include:

  • Sudden arm and leg movements
  • Uncontrolled eye blinking
  • Having difficulty swallowing
  • Lip smacking and “sucking” one’s teeth
  • Not being able to control one’s tongue movements
  • Constant hand and foot tapping

The good news is that these symptoms can be controlled with proper symptom management. This is true for tardive dyskinesia as well as the broader world of mental health medication side effects.

What Is Symptom Management?

Symptom management is very much what it sounds like. It involves utilizing several tools to best control the side effects brought about by medications, as well as the side effects of disorders that remain after a medication is in use.

The most important key to effective symptom management is to always practice it alongside professionals. Medical and mental health specialists are the main line of defense and expertise when it comes to symptom management. They will be able to determine if a medication is working or not. Critically, they will also be able to determine if the side effects of a certain medication are too detrimental to continue its use. Of course, they can only do this if we are open and honest with them (as well as with other mental health advocates).

One of the difficult parts of symptom management is finding a balance between treating the symptoms of the specific mental health disorder and the potential side effects that come from a certain medication. If the side effects of a specific medication start to become intrusive in everyday life, the question must be asked, “Is it worth it?” However, that must be weighed against the potential for disorder relapse and how disruptive that could be. The good news is that an effective mental health professional is going to be able to strike the right balance between medication side effects and containing the symptoms of a disorder.

Our Primary Purpose at The Phoenix Recovery Center

In 12-Step recovery, there is something known as the “Acceptance Statement.” It goes, “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me. I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we understand that recovery must be a combination of perseverance and acceptance. This is especially true with symptom management and mental health side effects. 

Our primary purpose is to help our clients recover in the long term. For us, that includes our own mission of acceptance and perseverance. We are ready to accept any recovery challenge that comes our way, and we are going to persevere until we overcome that challenge.

If you feel like you are struggling with some side effects of mental health medications, we can help. For more information on tardive dyskinesia and some of the medications that can be used to treat it, please call The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

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