Tardive Dyskinesia – A Family Member’s Perspective

NAMI New Hampshire
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When a loved one experiences a serious mental health condition, family members face an overwhelming number of concerns. Will their loved one be safe, stay in treatment, take prescribed medication? The last thing it seems that should top that worry list are medication side effects. Yet, antipsychotic medication comes with some risk, and one of those risks is Tardive Dyskinesia (TD).

TD is a persistent, involuntary movement disorder that is characterized by uncontrollable, abnormal, and repetitive movements of the face, torso, limbs and fingers or toes. The condition is associated with prolonged use of antipsychotic medication that may be necessary to treat individuals living with mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

This subject is important to me because two of my family members take antipsychotics to treat their mental health conditions. So, in addition to worrying about their recovery, I’ve been concerned that the medications intended to help them could potentially cause temporary or permanent damage. My loved ones’ recovery has been amazing to watch! There are multiple factors that have contributed to them returning to lives they enjoy living, and medication is one of those factors. Knowing the necessity of the medication and the risks associated with it creates a level of concern. Treatment works but at what cost?

I have learned to temper those fears with education and awareness. My family members each see a psychiatrist every three months where an assessment for TD takes place. They both know about TD symptoms and what to look for, and I pay attention to their movement whenever I am with them. We are prepared to act should symptoms of TD start, and that helps ease my worry.

We encourage everyone across New Hampshire to access education about the importance of screening for symptoms during TD Awareness Week in May, and throughout the year. If you or a loved one is concerned about TD, be sure to talk with your doctor about available treatment options and managing the condition. To learn more about TD, visit TalkAboutTD.com.

Michelle Wagner