Tardive dyskinesia (TD)

Explains what tardive dyskinesia is, what causes it and what you can do to manage it.

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Tardive dyskinesia (TD): Key Facts

  • It causes your face and/or body make sudden, jerky or slow twisting movements which you can’t control.
  • For some people TD may continue indefinitely, even after stopping or changing medication.

What is tardive dyskinesia?

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a condition where your face and/or body make sudden, jerky or slow twisting movements which you can’t control. It can develop as a side effect of medication, most commonly antipsychotic drugs.

  • Tardive’ means delayed or appearing late (because it usually only develops after you’ve been taking medication for at least a few months and sometimes years).
  • Dyskinesia’ means abnormal or unusual movements.

Awareness of TD has improved over the years, but unfortunately doctors don’t always remember to tell people about this risk when they prescribe antipsychotics.

It started with uncontrollably blinking and stretching my nose/top lip. I remember myself and my close family being quite confused as to why I was doing it!

Experiencing signs and symptoms of TD may make it hard to do day-to-day activities. It can also be very stressful or upsetting. For example, you may:

  • feel self-conscious about movements caused by TD
  • feel upset that you can’t control what your body is doing
  • find it very hard or impossible to predict when you will experience symptoms.

Having TD has made me very socially anxious and shy. I am constantly aware of my twitches and I wonder if people notice and, if so, what they are thinking...

What’s it like taking antipsychotics?

In this video you can watch Ziaul, Joe, Steve and Laura talk about their experiences of taking antipsychotics, side effects, and making choices about medication:

(For more information about these drugs, see our pages about psychiatric medication, and about antipsychotics.)

It is very scary to have pieces of your body doing their own thing and it affects your sense of self. You are no longer in control of your basic human boundaries.


This information was published in April 2018 – to be revised in 2021. References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information see our page on permissions and licensing.

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