Tardive dyskinesia (TD)

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

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Can I get rid of TD?

If you think you have developed signs and symptoms of tardive dyskinesia (TD), the most important thing you can do is to seek help as soon as possible. This will give you the best chance of getting rid of them. Unfortunately, there's no typical treatment for TD. What will work, or what you want to try, will be individual to you. This page covers:

Thankfully I saw an understanding GP who took me off the antipsychotic and contacted my psychiatrist to change me to another more suitable medication.

Remember: even if you can't completely get rid of your TD symptoms, there are still lots of things you can do to cope with your symptoms better.

Will TD disappear if I come off my medication?

If you identify the signs of TD early, and stop taking the antipsychotic that's causing them, then your TD might eventually go away completely. TD symptoms do improve in about half of people who stop taking antipsychotics – although they may not improve immediately, and may take up to five years to go.

However, for some people TD may continue indefinitely, even after stopping taking medication.

It's also important to bear in mind:

  • It's possible that you may only get TD when you start to come off antipsychotics, and in this case you may decide it's better to stay on your medication.
  • Sometimes, withdrawal can cause involuntary muscle movements or movement disorders that look like TD, but often this will get better with time.
  • The longer you have been taking a drug, the more likely you are to get withdrawal effects, and find it harder to come off. You may need to reduce your dose very gradually in order to minimise these effects.

Over a period of a couple of years my psychiatrist made medication changes and the symptoms eventually abated. I know I run the risk of them returning as I still am on quite a lot of medication.

How do I make my decision?

If you've found an antipsychotic that helps you manage your mental health problem, you may not want to stop taking it. This can be a difficult decision – ultimately you have to choose which course of action will best help you lead your life the way you want to.

You might want to consider the following questions:

  • What negative impact does TD have on you and your day to day life?
  • What positive impact does your medication have on you and your day to day life?
  • Do you experience other unwanted side effects from your medication as well?
  • Might a lower dose of medication, which may reduce the TD symptoms, still be effective?
  • How likely are you to relapse if you come off your medication entirely?

You might find it helpful to discuss these things with your health care professional. They may have suggestions to help you cope with or minimise any problems. For example, you could also consider:

  • switching to a different antipsychotic, which might cause less severe side effects
  • coming off anti-Parkinson’s drugs (if you're taking these), as use of these is linked to developing TD
  • learning self-care tips to look after yourself and cope with your symptoms better

I gradually stepped down my antipsychotics over two months using diazepam to help with the muscle pain/ spasm and mindfulness to help focus my moods and anxiety.

Remember: If you do decide to come off your medication, it's important to do it safely. See our pages on coming off medication for information about how to do this safely, and get support. Also see our pages on antipsychotics for more details about withdrawal from these drugs.

Can additional drugs and treatments help?

There is evidence that the following treatments may help you manage symptoms of TD.

On prescription

You can talk to your doctor about whether any of these could be a treatment option for you:

  • Clonazepam (a benzodiazepine tranquilliser used in epilepsy).
  • Procyclidine is a drug used to treat Parkinsons and dystonia. It's also used to treat movement disorders caused by antipsychotics, so your doctor may be willing to prescribe them for your TD.
  • Tetrabenazine is a drug used to treat movement disorders (most commonly used to treat Huntington's disease). However, the most common side effect of this drug is depression, so you may want to think carefully before considering this option.
  • Melatonin is a drug licensed for insomnia (being unable to sleep), but your doctor may be willing to prescribe it ‘off licence’ for TD as there is some evidence it can be beneficial.

Over the counter

You can buy these treatments without a prescription:

  • Vitamin E and Vitamin B6 are supplements available in most high street chemists. Take them according to the instructions on the package.
  • Ginkgo biloba is a herbal medicine available in high street chemists and complementary medicine shops. Take it according to the instructions on the package. You might want to talk to a qualified herbalist for more information about this and other herbs.

Remember: always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any other medications alongside your antipsychotic, including over-the-counter drugs, in case they could interact with each other badly.

I have been on and off procylidine (under supervision) over the years, having used it to treat the TD successfully.

I have been prescribed clonazepam for agitation whilst unwell, which helped the TD. [This] was not the reason it was prescribed, although it was a 'happy side effect' as such.

I was put on procyclidine [...] but this did not work.

This information was published in October 2015. We will revise it in 2018.

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