If you’ve ever experienced restlessness or an intense need for movement that is almost irresistible, it could be akathisia. Akathisia is a type of motor disorder that can cause great physical and mental distress. It may feel like your body has to keep moving in order to combat anxious thoughts or feelings. Fortunately, there are ways to manage and even put an end to these troubling symptoms by using the right supplements and lifestyle changes—and we’re here today to help you do just that! In this blog post, we’ll discuss what akathisia is in more detail, explain how supplements can be used as part of your treatment plan, and look at some tips on how you can improve the symptomology from the comfort and safety of home.
What is Akathisia?
Akathisia is a neurological side effect of certain medications that can be classified as either acute or tardive. Acute Akathisia is more short-term, while tardive akathisia is a long-term or more chronic form of the condition. The symptoms can come on suddenly and often escalate over time, making everyday tasks challenging. Patients may experience an overwhelming urge to move their legs or arms, pacing back and forth, rocking, or fidgeting. People with akathisia may feel as if they are “crawling out of their skin.” It can be a truly debilitating experience that no one should have to endure alone..
Other conditions closely resemble akathisia, including restless leg syndrome, anxiety and mood disorders. Unfortunately, this makes misdiagnosis common. To diagnose this disorder, doctors examine patient histories with the help of a checklist. This allows them to determine which type of akathisia the patient may have.
Types of Akathisia
There are seven types of akathisia:
This type of akathisia is typically brought on by a medication, such as an antipsychotic or antidepressant. Symptoms develop quickly, within hours or days, and can include pacing, rocking back and forth, and fidgeting. Treatment may involve stopping the medication or adjusting the dose.
Chronic akathisia is a long-term version of the acute type, and can persist even after the offending medication has been discontinued. Symptoms may be less severe, but can still impact quality of life. Treatment may include switching to a different medication or using a medication to manage symptoms.
Tardive akathisia is a type of akathisia that develops after long-term use of certain medications, such as antipsychotics. Symptoms may include facial grimacing, jaw clenching, and body rocking. This type of akathisia can be difficult to manage, and treatment may include stopping or reducing the offending medication or using a medication to manage symptoms.
As the name suggests, withdrawal akathisia can occur when someone abruptly stops taking a medication, particularly a benzodiazepine or antipsychotic. Symptoms can be severe and may include pacing, anxiety, and panic attacks. Gradually tapering off the medication can help manage these symptoms.
Also known as formication, somatosensory akathisia is characterized by unpleasant sensations such as crawling, itching, or burning on or under the skin. This type of akathisia is often associated with cocaine withdrawal or the use of neuroleptic medications.
Psychotic akathisia is a subtype of akathisia that occurs in people with certain psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Symptoms may include restlessness, extreme agitation, and difficulty sleeping. Treatment may involve adjusting medications or using anti-anxiety or sedative medications.
Neuroleptic-induced akathisia is caused by the use of certain medications, such as antipsychotics or antidepressants. Symptoms may take longer to develop than acute akathisia, and may be less severe. Treatment may involve stopping the medication or adjusting the dose.
Symptoms of Akathisia
Akathisia symptoms vary in intensity, depending on the medication that triggers the condition. It’s often dangerous; sometimes, patients can become so agitated that they have violent thoughts toward themselves or others.
Symptoms may include:
One of the most common symptoms of Akathisia is a feeling of restlessness or discomfort in the legs. This can be difficult to describe, but it is often described as a feeling of “crawling out of your skin.” You may also find it hard to sit still or keep your legs from moving.
Muscle stiffness is a common symptom of akathisia. It is often accompanied by restlessness and exacerbates the inability to sit still. Muscle stiffness can lead to poor posture and discomfort that can make it difficult to find relief. An individual who appears stiff while at rest may be experiencing akathisia and should seek medical attention.
Another symptom of akathisia is insomnia. You may find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep because of the restlessness and discomfort. This can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty focusing during the day.
Akathisia can also lead to increased anxiety levels. You may feel constantly on edge or like you are in a state of high alert. This can also lead to panic attacks and other anxiety-related symptoms.
Akathisia can also cause agitation and irritability. You may feel easily frustrated or angered by little things. It can also make it difficult to concentrate on tasks or socialize with others.
Depression is one of the most common symptoms of akathisia, with up to 50% of patients affected. In fact, depression can be a precursor to the onset of akathisia, and an increase in suicidal ideation may indicate that an individual with depression has progressed to experiencing akathisia. Some of the signs of depression that you may notice include a prolonged sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue.
Panic attacks are common symptoms of akathisia. These attacks are characterized by intense fear and overwhelming physical sensations such as heart palpitations, dizziness or lightheadedness, sweating and trembling. During an akathisia-induced panic attack, the individual may experience a severe sense of restlessness and may be unable to calm themselves down. It’s essential to note that individuals with a history of anxiety may be more susceptible to akathisia.
In extreme cases, ignoring the symptoms of Akathisia can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. This is because the constant feeling of restlessness and discomfort can be incredibly distressing and difficult to cope with. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek help right away.
Although rare, an individual experiencing akathisia may have homicidal thoughts. In some cases, these thoughts may be brought on by the restlessness and agitation that often accompany akathisia, leading to a reduced level of inhibition and impulse control. If you or someone you know is experiencing homicidal thoughts, it’s vital to seek professional help immediately.
Causes of Akathisia
One of the leading causes of akathisia is medication. Antipsychotic medications, antidepressants, and other drugs used to treat mental health disorders can cause this condition. Medications that increase dopamine levels in the brain can trigger akathisia. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain responsible for regulating emotions and mood. It can cause a surge in energy levels, leading to restlessness and agitation.
Akathisia usually develops after taking certain medications, and some drugs are more likely to cause it than others. The numbers are shocking: 50 to 80 percent of those taking one group of antipsychotic drugs will experience this condition. Some antidepressants may cause it, as well.
Another cause of akathisia can be neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s disease often experience akathisia alongside the movement disorders caused by their condition. This symptom can be caused by the medication used to treat the disease.
Discontinuing antipsychotic medication abruptly can cause akathisia. This condition may be the result of the withdrawal symptoms that occur after stopping the medication. Abruptly stopping certain medications can cause a sudden change in dopamine levels, leading to the development of akathisia.
Researchers have found a genetic link between the development of akathisia and some people. Some individuals may be predisposed to developing this condition due to their genes. The genetic link is an ongoing study, and further research is being done to find out more about how genetics can affect the development of akathisia.
Meningitis, an infection that affects the brain and spinal cord, can cause akathisia. The development of akathisia from meningitis is understood to be a rare complication, but some individuals with a history of meningitis have reported experiencing this symptom.
Can Lithium Cause Akathisia?
The exact mechanism of how lithium causes akathisia is not fully understood. However, it is believed that lithium can affect the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These neurotransmitters are important in regulating mood, energy, and movement. When they are disrupted, it can lead to the symptoms of akathisia.
Can Akathisia be Permanent?
It’s important to understand that akathisia can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause and treatment. Temporary akathisia is usually by medication and can go away on its own without any intervention. In contrast, permanent akathisia is by damage to the brain or central nervous system and can’t be cured completely.
Secondly, the treatment options for akathisia depend on the severity of the condition. For temporary akathisia, the doctor may reduce the dosage of the medication, switch to a different medication, or prescribe additional medication to counteract the symptoms. However, for permanent akathisia, treatment options have limitations, and the focus is on managing the symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life.
Treatment for Akathasia
By following the suggested remedies and incorporating the recommended lifestyle changes, akathasia sufferers can reduce and manage the severity of their symptoms and ultimately enjoy a better quality of life.
One of the most common treatment methods for akathasia is medication. Patients receive a prescription of medication that can control the symptoms. Commonly, Dopamine-depleting drugs are a recommendation to treat the condition. It can be helpful to seek medical advice from a professional if you are struggling with the symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Another recommended treatment for akathasia is CBT. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps a patient to manage their symptoms by changing their behavioral and thought patterns. It is an active and comprehensive treatment that explores the patient’s emotions and thoughts to provide a useful framework for improving their mental health. The therapy involves identifying negative thoughts and the behaviors and patterns that lie behind them.
Patients with diagnosed akathasia should make positive lifestyle changes to improve their condition. Reducing caffeine intake, getting more sleep, eating healthily and getting in regular exercise can all contribute to managing the symptoms of water and even prevent it from occurring. Since stress is a significant cause of movement disorders, relaxation techniques such as meditation or Yoga can also be effective treatments.
Another effective treatment option for akathasia is massage therapy. Massage has incredible soothing effects, reduces tension, and can ease the discomfort associated with it. It is also a stress-relieving treatment that can help reduce anxiety and depression. Be sure to get medical advice from your doctor before attempting any type of massage or new treatment.
Acupuncture is another popular treatment option for patients with akathasia. This therapy involves the use of needles that receive a placement in strategic points in the body and helps to reduce pain, soothe muscles and improve blood circulation. This therapy can help to promote relaxation and alleviate anxiety. Patients must seek acupuncture treatment from a licensed practitioner and receive medical advice before trying any new treatment.
Supplements for Akathisia
To treat akathisia symptoms, doctors may direct patients to stop taking their current medications, or to start taking new medications. Beta-blockers help patients manage their symptoms.
Magnesium is a mineral that can have a positive impact on relieving symptoms. Studies have found that low levels of magnesium can exacerbate the effects. Taking a supplement can be advantageous since the blood-brain barrier often protects the body from excess magnesium that can cause diarrhea. If you’re experiencing restless symptoms, magnesium glycinate or chelated magnesium could prove useful.
Iron is another mineral that can provide relief from symptoms. A lack of iron has links with muscle spasms and tremors, which contribute to the restlessness and agitation that come with akathisia. In fact, research has shown that taking iron supplements can significantly reduce the severity of symptoms. Therefore, consider taking iron supplements or increasing your intake of iron-rich foods like beans, lentils, and spinach.
B-Complex vitamins are famous for their ability to provide relief for a variety of different ailments, including akathisia. B-1 and B-6 in particular have proven to be especially beneficial to those experiencing restlessness and agitation. These vitamins help the body produce healthy blood cells, and strong nerve function. Taking a B-Complex supplement or incorporating foods like eggs, fish, and almonds into your diet can aid in reducing Akathisia symptoms.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and plays a crucial role in the immune system’s functioning. However, it also plays a role in mood regulation, and people with low levels of vitamin D have higher rates of depression. Low vitamin D levels have links to akathisia, and supplementation may help reduce the severity of symptoms.
Individuals experiencing insomnia as a result of akathisia should consider taking Melatonin supplements. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain that regulates sleep. Studies have shown that sufferers of akathisia tend to have lower 24-hour levels of melatonin in their system; as a result, taking a supplement could help regulate sleep and regulate symptoms.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Finally, Omega-3 Fatty Acids can provide relief to those dealing with akathisia. These fatty acids are essential to healthy nerve function, and they’ve links to calming the nervous system, managing anxiety, and boosting cognitive function. Fish oil supplements are an excellent way to augment your omega-3 intake. Additionally, foods such as avocados, nuts, and leafy vegetables contain the required nutrients.
Valerian root is an herbal remedy that is common for its calming effects. It shows to reduce anxiety and restlessness, making it an effective natural treatment for akathisia. Valerian root is available in supplement form or as a tea. However, be sure to consult with your doctor before taking valerian root, as it may interact with certain medications.
Passionflower is another herbal remedy that shows to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. It also has a calming effect on the nervous system, making it an effective natural treatment for akathisia. Passionflower is available in supplement form or as a tea. As with valerian root, it’s important to consult with your doctor before taking passionflower.
The Bottom Line
Akathisia is a condition that causes agitation and restlessness, often as a result of taking certain medications. Symptoms are often debilitating and dangerous. Akathisia is a serious condition that can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause and treatment. The severity and risk factors of this condition vary from person to person, making it crucial to consult with your doctor about any symptoms you experience. Although permanent akathisia can’t be cured completely, certain treatments can help alleviate the symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life. Maintaining an open dialogue with your doctor, avoiding triggers, and leading a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing akathisia and improve your overall well-being.
While supplements may not cure akathisia, supplementing your diet with vitamins and minerals may help alleviate the symptoms of the condition. Make sure to speak to your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you have an underlying medical condition. Taking supplements may not be a complete solution, but they can become a healthy addition to a balanced diet and regular exercise to possibly reduce the symptoms of akathisia. Speak to your doctor or trusted health professional about which supplements you can take and the doses you should take.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease