Describing the Emotional Impact of TD

Learn how the impact of this involuntary movement disorder extends beyond physical symptoms.

A stressed man sits on bed with head in hands.

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) can be a lot to deal with. Beyond the physical symptoms, the condition can be a burden on emotional and mental health.

Keeping your healthcare provider in the loop about what you are feeling is important. This information can help your healthcare provider make adjustments to the medications you take and the other aspects of your treatment, such as counseling or therapy.

Sometimes describing emotions can be tricky. With that in mind, the below is a glossary of terms that may be helpful when trying to describe the emotional impact of TD. If you have TD, these terms may help you put words to what you are experiencing. If you’re caring for someone with TD, these definitions and explanations can help you understand some of the ways TD may be affecting your loved one’s emotional health.

  • Stigma involves discrimination or a negative attitude toward someone, based on a characteristic or circumstance. TD is often the result of long-term use of medications for psychiatric disorders. This means that those with TD may face the stigma of TD symptoms on top of the stigma of mental illness.
  • Social isolation is the absence of social connections or relationships with people, or even with society on a broader level. You may find yourself purposely isolating from people due to embarrassment about what others may think. You may even be resistant to forming friendships or getting involved in romantic relationships. It may be the other way around, too—others may avoid you due to their own stigmas or assumptions about TD. Over time, social isolation and the loneliness that goes along with it can take a significant toll on your mental health.
  • Embarrassment is an emotional state associated with varying levels of discomfort or self-consciousness. The involuntary movements that are the hallmark symptom of TD can cause you to feel embarrassed. This embarrassment, or fear of being embarrassed, may cause you to refrain from basic social activities and can lead to social isolation over time.
  • Distress goes beyond sadness. It can also have you feeling fearful, angry, helpless, hopeless, panicked, or out of control. TD can cause feelings of distress, and distress can make it harder to cope with having TD. You may have trouble focusing on treatment decisions, making follow-up appointments, or even taking medications that are important for the management of other conditions.
  • Anxiety is your body's response to stress. It's a feeling of fear or apprehension about what's to come. You may feel anxious about going out in public because you’re nervous of what others might think. Or you may worry about how your symptoms will morph or change. It’s normal to feel anxious about things from time to time. However, if you’re finding yourself experiencing extreme levels of anxiety—to the point where it’s debilitating—it could be a mental health disorder.
  • Depression should not be confused with sadness. Sadness is a natural reaction to an emotionally upsetting or painful situation. Depression is a longer-term mental illness that causes persistent feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.

The feelings described here can seem overwhelming. Remember that you do not have to manage them on your own. If you’re experiencing negative feelings and emotions, it’s important to tell your healthcare provider, who can guide you toward treatment and support that can help.

Article sources open article sources

National Organization of Rare Disorders. "Tardive Dyskinesia."
National Alliance on Mental Health. "Tardive Dyskinesia."
American Psychiatric Association. "What is Psychotherapy?"
Mental Health America. "Find Support Groups."
American Psychiatric Association. "Stigma, Prejudice and Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness."
Mayo Clinic. "Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness."
Movement Disorders Policy Coalition. "Moving Beyond Stigma for People Living with TD."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions."
Amy Novotney. "The risks of social isolation." American Psychological Association. May 2019.
American Cancer Society. "What is Distress?"
National Institute of Mental Health. "Anxiety Disorders."
MedlinePlus. "Anxiety."
National Institute of Mental Health. "Depression."
American Psychiatric Association. "What is Depression?"
Anxiety & Depression Association of America. "Understanding Anxiety and Depression is the First Step."

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