Tardive dyskinesia (TD)

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

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How can other people help?

This page is for friends and family who want to support someone who experiences tardive dyskinesia (TD).

It can be really worrying if your friend or relative has tardive dyskinesia (TD), or they’ve started taking antipsychotic medication and you’re worried they might develop it in the future. But there are lots of things you can do that might help:

  • Learn more about TD and antipsychotics. It might feel helpful to understand more about their medication and what they’re going through – and this could also make your friend or family member feel more supported. You could start by reading the rest of our pages on TD, and take a look at our pages on antipsychotics for more information.
  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms of TD. Early detection is important to help your friend or family member have the best chance of getting rid of TD, so if you notice they're developing new symptoms it’s important to gently let them know – even though you may not want to worry them or make them feel self-conscious. You could show them our page on signs and symptoms of TD to help start the conversation.
  • Support and encourage your friend or family member to seek help. It might help to reassure them that it’s ok to ask for help, even if their symptoms are mild or not having a big impact on them right now. (For more information, see our page on supporting someone else to seek help.)

My friend encouraged me to talk to my CPN [community psychiatric nurse], offered support and reminded me to take both my medication for psychosis and also the side effect tablets. They also reminded me that I've got through bouts of illness before and that I would get through them again!

  • Try not to judge them. It can be really difficult watching someone you love develop TD, but it’s important to remember that they aren’t choosing to have these symptoms and may not realise when they’re happening. Trying to stay calm and supportive can be really helpful if your friend or family member is feeling upset.
  • Be sensitive. If your friend or family member is experiencing TD, they may feel very self-conscious or worried that people are looking at them. Try not to focus on their unusual movements or draw attention to them unnecessarily (unless you are helping them make sense of their symptoms, or making them aware of any changes you've noticed to support them to seek help).

I would say show empathy each and every step... General non-judgmental, positive support and understanding that you are not mad is a big help.

  • Help them to continue having a social life. If your friend or family member is feeling distressed or embarrassed, they may need some encouragement to keep up social activities. You could try asking them what sorts of activities they’d like to do, inviting them to family or social events, or helping them to keep up with hobbies they enjoy.
  • Offer practical help. TD can make some practical activities difficult (such as cooking, carrying bags and objects, or keeping up with housework). You could ask your friend or family member if they need any help with these kind of tasks.

There has nothing anyone has been able to do to help me manage it, but they have done a lot to help me cope.

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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