Got Ants in My Pants and I Need to Dance!

Recently, my doctor and I decided to up the dosage of my antipsychotic. Unfortunately, this has caused a major problem for me: akathisia.

What is akathisia? According to Wikipedia:

Akathisia is a movement disorder characterized by a feeling of inner restlessness and a compelling need to be in constant motion, as well as by actions such as rocking while standing or sitting, lifting the feet as if marching on the spot, and crossing and uncrossing the legs while sitting. People with akathisia are unable to sit or keep still, complain of restlessness, fidget, rock from foot to foot, and pace.

One of the major causes of this is drug withdrawal, although antipsychotics have this as a common side effect. In terms of side effects, this one is miserable. You’re down, you’re up, you’re side to side. Your legs are moving, your arms jittery, unable to sit or lie down. Every muscle is on fire. Just go, just go. Your legs run on the floor, miles in minutes, without you going anywhere.

There are a few different ways to treat this, one being medication. Keep in mind that you should always talk to your doctor before making med changes though. Beta blockers and lorazepam are shown to help minimize the side effect. In addition, you can talk to your doctor about lowering the dosage of the medication that causes it or find a new medication. There has also been some data that show that Benedryl can be effective in treating akathisia as well.

But what to do in the meantime? Well, I’ve found that funneling movements helps. For example, I have a fidget toy with me to keep my hands busy, and I have bouncy hemispheres that keep my legs busy. If I have to concentrate on something, I usually pace in order to eliminate the amount of energy that goes into stopping the movements.

If I have time on my hands and the akathisia is particularly bad, I try to channel it into various workouts. You can find some basic fitness moves online or on an app. Use this miserable side effect for the better.

When I have akathisia, I try to drink more than I usually would, since my body is expending more energy. Try keeping a water bottle with you, especially if it’s warm out.

So, what do you guys do for akathisia?


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