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Tardive Dyskinesia

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Tardive Dyskinesia



Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a movement disorder. It causes repeating movements that a person cannot control. TD may affect the face, limbs, or trunk.

The Brain .

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TD is caused by the long-term use of some types of medicines that treat mental health problems.

It is not known why TD happens. Not all people who take these medicines get TD.

Risk Factors

TD is more common in women. It is also more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Use of antipsychotics that were:
    • Taken in high doses for longer than six months
    • Part of the first group of medicines made to treat a condition called psychosis
  • Presence of symptoms that start or get worse after the medicine is stopped or the dose is lowered


Movements may happen every so often or all the time. Symptoms may start while a person is taking the medicine or within weeks of stopping it.

A person may have:

  • Face movements:
    • Chewing
    • Smacking, pursing, or puckering the lips
    • Frowning
    • Sticking out or twisting the tongue
  • Limb movements:
    • Flexing and extending the thighs
    • Foot tapping while sitting
    • Moving fingers as if playing the piano
    • Rubbing the hands together
  • Trunk movements:
    • Swaying the body
    • Pelvic thrusts


The doctor will ask about symptoms, health history, and what medicines a person takes. A physical exam will be done. This is enough to make the diagnosis.


The goal of treatment is to stop movement problems. Choices are:

  • Lowering the dose of medicine that is causing TD
  • Changing or stopping the medicine that is causing TD
  • Taking medicines to ease TD symptoms, such as vesicular monoamine transporter 2 inhibitors

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be used in people who are not helped by other methods. Electrodes are placed in the brain to help block or change abnormal activity.


Talk to a doctor about the risks and benefits of medicines taken to treat mental health problems.





  • Bhidayasiri, R., Fahn, S., et al. Evidence-based guideline: treatment of tardive syndromes: report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology, 2013; 81 (5): 463-469.
  • Tardive dyskinesia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tardive-dyskinesia.
  • Tardive dyskinesia. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/tardive-dyskinesia.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.