Tardive dyskinesia (TD)

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

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What does TD look like?

The main sign of tardive dyskinesia (TD) is that you will make movements which:

  • you don’t normally make, and
  • are totally out of your control

I had neck stiffness for two weeks and then developed a twitch in my right arm. This quickly developed into both arms cramping regularly. My arm would cramp and spasm and my thumb would end up touching my shoulder.

The kinds of movements caused by TD fall into three groups:

Jerky movements

Writhing or squirming

Muscle spasms

Movements which:

  • are irregular – not rhythmic or repetitive
  • may flow from one muscle to the next

Can include:

  • lip smacking
  • moving your mouth or jaw
  • tapping or moving your hands and feet
  • movement in your hips
  • movement in your upper body

Movements which are:

  • involuntary
  • slow and flowing


Can include:

  • wiggling or twisting your fingers, arms, legs and neck

Movements which:

  • are out of your control
  • might last a short time or for longer periods
  • may be painful

Can include:

  • contracting, spasming muscles
  • making grunting noises
  • having difficulty breathing
  • changes to your posture

My leg kept flexing at the knee in quite a big gesture and I had no control of it whatsoever. I also developed a slight tremor in my hands and arms which I still have to this day.

If you have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, you may have experienced unusual movements before taking any medication, including moving your legs and arms a lot or being restless. This might make it hard to recognise or pick out the symptoms of TD.

It made me feel stupid and very depressed. It was funny sometimes, however it soon became painful. I didn’t want to go outside as I felt embarrassed.

Detecting signs of TD early is really important for reducing the possibility that TD will continue. If you have started taking antipsychotic drugs and are experiencing any of these signs you should speak to a doctor, even if the symptoms are mild, or you’re not sure what they are.


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


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