Akathisia Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

You have been feeling a bit restless lately and normally, you find yourself moving although you do not want to. Even your friends and family members have noticed that something has changed and yet you cannot stop yourself from being in motion abnormally. You feel a compulsion to always move and to be in motion.

This is one condition that will cause a person to move at the soonest possible time. This evokes a feeling of restlessness. A lot of times, this condition is caused by taking antipsychotic drugs usually for people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There are some new antipsychotic drugs that are still being checked now to see if they can cause the same condition.

This condition is known to be a side effect and about 70% of people who are taking medications are likely to acquire this condition. This is more evident on the first week after the medications are first started. A lot of people who realize that they may have this condition normally panic and become more anxious.

Akathisia Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Types of Akathisia

The types of this condition can be divided into different types based on the time from when the condition starts to occur.

  • Tardive Akathisia – This normally develops about a few months or years after the medication that causes the condition was taken.
  • Acute Akathisia – This means that the condition was experienced immediately and it would last for half a year or more.
  • Chronic Akathisia – The condition lasts for more than 6 months after the medications are taken.

Main Causes of Akathisia

Akathisia is caused by taking certain types of medications. This means that the medications are causing a completely different effect from what it is supposed to do. There was a time when almost everyone who took anti-psychotic drugs are afflicted with this condition because of the strong ingredients that can be found but as the tools that are used to create new medications are improved, the side effects that people experience have also visibly lessened.

Still, this does not mean that people will not become afflicted with this condition anymore.

Here are some drug types that may cause Akathisia to occur:

  • SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)

This is known as an anti-depressant. This ensures that you have serotonin in your system so that you will begin to feel better. One well known drug that is under this category is Prozac. Drugs that are under this category are not meant to be taken for a long period of time.

  • Antipsychotics

This is the type of drugs that usually act as tranquilizers in order to calm down people who are feeling a bit restless or anxious about the things that they are going through. Ironically, this type of drug may have Akathisia as one of its side effects. This foregoes its purpose. Some of the medications that are under this type of drug are Haldol or Risperidone.

  • Antihistamines

This type of drug is usually taken by people who are suffering from allergies but at times, the strength of the components may be too much and cause Akathisia. Antihistamines that contain diphenyhydramine may cause Akathisia.

  • Levodopa

This is a type of drug that is normally given to people who are suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Some studies show that it may cause Akathisia.

Aside from medications, there are also other possible reasons why Akathisia may be experienced.

  • Withdrawal from certain drugs

For people who have taken barbiturates and opioid, the absence of these medications can already cause bad effects to the body. A lot of people become addicted to these medications and once the withdrawal starts to kick in, they may develop Akathisia.

  • Withdrawal from taking alcohol

Another one of the possible causes of acquiring Akathisia is alcohol withdrawal. There are some people who just take alcohol regularly and when they suddenly stop, the body searches for the alcohol. If you are trying to get rid of your alcohol addiction, stopping yourself from alcohol intake should be done in a gradual manner. Lessen your alcohol intake little by little and it will make a big difference. You will also lessen the chance of acquiring this condition.

Anti-psychotic medications known to cause3 Akathisia

Here is a list of some of the medications that are reported to have caused Akathisia:

  • Fluanxol
  • Haldol
  • Moban
  • Orap
  • Mellaril
  • Stalazine
  • Navane
  • Compazine
  • Compro
  • Trilafon
  • Loxitane
  • Prolixin
  • Thorazine

Take note that second – generation anti pscyhotics will be less likely to incude Akathisia as a side effect but this does not mean that it is not possible.

Those who are most likely to get this condition are people with the following:

  • You normally take a high dosage of any drug mentioned above or any other drug that may cause Akathisia.
  • The dosage of your medication has been increased far too quickly. Gradually increasing your dosage may lessen the symptoms.
  • You are middle aged.
  • You have encephalitis.
  • You have suffered from a traumatic brain injury.
  • You are currently suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Symptoms of Akathisia

Do you suspect that you have this condition? It will help if you know the symptoms of this condition. If you always feel the need to move and you are feeling a bit restless as compared to before you took some medications, you need to know other symptoms to check your suspicions.

  • Shifting your weight from one leg to another when you are standing up.
  • Walking in place
  • Shuffling while you are walking
  • You normally feel the need to lift your feet when you are walking similar to a march.
  • When you sit down, you find yourself crossing and uncrossing your legs repeatedly.
  • You normally rock back and forth whether you are sitting down or standing up.
  • Fidgeting when you are forced to stay still.
  • Tapping your feet.
  • Frequently changing positions whether sitting down or standing up.

Aside from your legs and your overall feeling of restlessness, it is likely that you will feel tense all the time. You panic for the simplest reasons even if you know that the issues can be resolved later on. You also have the tendency to be impatient. You would like to get the things that you want at the soonest possible time.

Akathisia and Tardive Dykinesia – Are There Differences?

Akathisia and Tardive Dykinesia are both movement disorders. This is the reason why some doctors usually mistaken Akathisia for Tardive Dykinesia. There are some differences that can distinguish one condition from the other.

Tardive Dykinesia usually affects certain portions of the body like the arms, the trunk and the face while Akathisia normally affects the legs. Another obvious difference is that those with Akathisia are aware that they are moving and they become upset because of the movements they make because they cannot help themselves. Those who have Tardive Dykinesia on the other hand are unaware that they are making involuntary movements.

To be diagnosed properly by the doctor, patients should be completely honest with all of the symptoms that they are experiencing.

Another condition that is considered similar to Akathisia is restless leg syndrome but unlike the former which usually manifests when a person is about to sleep, Akathisia is usually characterized by having controlled movements that may occur whether or not the person is about to sleep or not.

Akathisia Diagnosis

For people to become diagnosed with Akathisia, doctors normally use the Barnes Akathisia Scale. The doctor would normally ask the patient to sit and will make some observations based on the questions that are written on the scale. This scale is not only used to see if the patient has this condition, it can also check how severe the condition is. This scale is helpful in determining whether the person is truly suffering from Akathisia or may have other similar conditions.

Treatments for Akathisia

This condition is somewhat tricky to treat because this is drug – induced. If you have developed Akathisia, you are highly recommended to tell your doctor about it so that you can start your treatment at the soonest possible time.

  • Adjustment of Dosage – If in case your condition started when the dosage for the medication that you have to take is increased by your doctor, the medication may be adjusted again so that Akathisia can be avoided. This can be a bit complicated because the dosage has to be enough to work well for you and not so much that it will make you develop Akathisia.
  • Stop taking your medication – This is not something that you should do without your doctor’s approval especially if your condition is delicate and you need the drug in order to function well every day. There is a possibility that your doctor will allow you to skip taking the medications for a certain period of time just to see if it is the medication that primarily developed Akathisia.
  • Take anticholinergics – These drugs are taken in order to stop some neurotransmitters from transmitting to other parts of the body. This type of medication is usually prescribed for people who are suffering from sleep rated ailments and issues with digestion but they work for some people who are diagnosed with Akathisia.
  • Change your medications – Your doctor may recommend that you take a similar drug from the one that has caused your Akathisia. This can be effective in slowing progression.
  • Change in diet and lifestyle – What food do you normally eat? If you would like to improve your condition, you are recommended to take food that is rich in Vitamin B6. This can help lessen the severity of your symptoms. Get Vitamin B6 from eating potatoes, beef and turkey. Report to your doctor if you see that your symptoms have improved.

Will Akathisia be Permanent?

This is normally the concern of a lot of people who are diagnosed with this condition. If this is troubling you too, remember that this condition may be temporary or permanent. If this condition started primarily because of the drugs that you have taken then stopping the drugs or changing them will help get rid of the symptoms and allow you to go back to normal.

There are times however when you get Akathisia because of drug withdrawal. If this is the case, suddenly stopping yourself from taking these drugs will only help worsen your condition. It will all depend on how well your doctor and you will handle the diagnosis and the treatments you should do.

There are some people who get severe Akathisia so even if they stopped taking the drugs years ago, they still get symptoms of the condition although it is not too severe as compared to when you were still taking the drugs that caused your Akathisia to appear in the first place.

Some Things to Remember

  • Akathisia is not contagious. It is a drug related condition.
  • People do not choose to become afflicted with this condition. Some get it because of the strength of the drugs they have to take.
  • The length of time that people will have this condition will depend on how severe their conditions are. Mild cases usually stop the moment that the medications are stopped but there are also some that can reach up to half a year. When a person has the condition for more than 6 months, this means that they already have acute Akathisia.
  • You should not take drugs that are not prescribed by your doctor. If you do this, you may develop some symptoms that will not be good for your health at all. Some medications may have adverse effects on your mental health.
  • It is best that you see your doctor immediately after you notice that symptoms of Akathisia because the earlier that it is diagnosed and treated, the better your chances of recovering from this condition.

With all of the things that you have learned about Akathisia, it is expected that you have more information regarding your condition or the condition of someone that you know. Take a look at the treatments to see which one will work best for you.

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