Providing Emotional Support for a Loved One with TD

Try these strategies to help a loved one cope with the emotional impact of tardive dyskinesia.

Medically reviewed in January 2021

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) comes with numerous challenges. Some of these challenges are caused by the physical symptoms of TD, which include jerky, involuntary movements in the face and sometimes other areas of the body. These symptoms can impact a person’s physical functioning and physical health. Everyday tasks like doing chores or errands, preparing meals, and working may become difficult.

Symptoms can also affect a person’s emotional health, causing embarrassment, social withdrawal, distress, and other negative emotions. Adding to the burden of TD is the fact that it affects people who already have underlying medical conditions. TD develops as an adverse effect in some people who take certain medications. It is most often associated with neuroleptic medications, also known as antipsychotics. These medications are prescribed for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as other psychiatric disorders.

Here, we look at some ways that you can help a loved one with TD cope with the emotional impact of the disorder.

Help them reduce stress
Stress can have a cyclic relationship with health conditions. Health conditions like schizophrenia and TD can be very stressful to live with—and stress can in turn make health conditions more difficult to manage.

One way you can be supportive of your loved one with TD is by joining them in activities that lower stress. Partner up for a mindfulness activity such as meditation or yoga. Go for a walk outside, preferably in a natural environment like a park. Or simply make time for something fun, like having coffee or cooking a meal together. Remember that lowering stress can benefit you as well.

Be there to listen
It may sound simple, but don’t underestimate the value of having someone to talk to. Living with TD can be an isolating experience and it is important for your loved one to know that you are a source of support when they need it. Be understanding if your loved one is not forthcoming with how they are feeling or their feelings about their condition. Health and mental health can be difficult topics to open up about.

As a caregiver or friend, you are also in a position to help monitor symptoms. Symptoms of TD can get worse with time, and because these changes may happen slowly, a person with TD may not notice a change right away.

Be a source of encouragement
TD is a serious condition that requires diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare provider. If your loved one is currently being treated for TD, encourage them to keep their healthcare appointments, stick with their treatment plan, and follow the instructions outlined by their healthcare providers. If your loved one has symptoms of TD—even mild symptoms—encourage them to discuss these symptoms with their healthcare provider.

Also note that someone with TD may need help with things like finding a healthcare provider and preparing for an appointment—and these are other opportunities for you to provide support.

Hassaan H. Bashir and Joseph Jankovic. "Treatment of Tardive Dyskinesia." Neurologic Clinics, 2020. Vol. 38, No. 2.
Joseph McEvoy, Sanjay K. Gandhi, et al. "Effect of tardive dyskinesia on quality of life in patients with bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia." Quality of Life Research, 2019. Vol. 28, No. 12. "How Tardive Dyskinesia May Impact You." "Tardive dyskinesia (TD)."
Living with Schizophrenia. "Coping with Stress."
Elsevier Patient Education. "Tardive Dyskinesia."

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