Talk About Restlessness…

So, for years I have experienced something that I haven’t been able to name.

Corey put a good label on it one day when he asked if I was feeling agitated, and though I wasn’t sure of the exact definition of the word agitated, it seemed to fit. It didn’t seem like the best description of what I was feeling, but it was better than no word at all.

This type of restlessness or agitation is one of the symptoms triggered from time to time for me that really makes my skin crawl. It is overwhelmingly uncomfortable, as if my body is screaming out in pain all over, and the only thing that seems to help is by constantly shifting my weight, and flexing as many muscles as I possibly can.

Well, come to find out, there’s a proper name for that.

Word of the day:

Akathisia. [ak′əthē′zhə]

“Agitated or restless movement, usually affecting the legs and accompanied by a sense of discomfort.”

I realize this definition from doesn’t have much more to offer than what I’ve already said, so how about another one from the same place saying;

“Antsiness Neurology Motor restlessness ranging from a feeling of inner disquiet to inability to sit still or lie quietly, accompanied by a sensation of muscular quivering, and an urge to be in constant motion, a common extrapyramidal effect of neuroleptics/antipsychotics.”

The reason I found this word, akathisia, at all was after doing a search on Geodon (an antipsychotic) and it popping up all over the place. Apparently it can be a side effect of many neuroleptics or antipsychotics, but personally I have only experienced it without the “help” of these types of drugs.

I had a particularly hard time with it as a child and teenager, I couldn’t sleep very well because I was constantly feeling restless and like my legs (in particular) were hurting if I didn’t move them around in bed. I’ve found that stretching or rapidly pointing my toes in various directions, in that situation, helped to some degree, so that is what I do now and it seems to help me get to sleep faster.

More recently in my adult life, however, and in my teen years after bipolar symptoms started to show themselves, the feeling has been more widespread. I’ve had pain up and down my body that felt like little bolts of lightening, or feeling like each of my muscles had been strained after a long workout and kept tightening and releasing on their own.

The feeling of akathisia (for me) comes mostly at night, and more often in manic or mixed states (mixed being the primary time it pops up). It has also been a factor in situations where I have been unbelievably anxious, and about a year ago I made something of a breakthrough when I had my ER trip after a massive anxiety attack that rendered me feeling somewhat paralyzed and twitchy. The twitchiness reminded me of other instances of akathisia, so I drew a firm conclusion that it can be related to anxiety for me.

I have also known several people who had a seeming inability to stand or sit still, and would either rock back and forth, or march in pace, or just be constantly on the move. Apparently that is also akathisia, and can range anywhere from doing this on a constant basis, to only when other people are around, to fairly frequently (like me) to not at all. Like anything else, this is a symptom with a range of severity.

To be honest, sometimes I don’t pursue learning words like this one because I become worried I will get too wrapped up in the medical jargon sorts of terms that make it difficult for most people to understand what the heck I am trying to say. This one, however, seemed like a good one, since it is something I have experienced for so long and never had a real name to call it until now.

I find myself curious, now that I have a name for this symptom’s ugly face, has anyone else experienced akathisia? And if you have, in what way has it manifested itself for you? Has it ever seemed directly correlated with a medication you’ve taken, or was it triggered by something else?


5 responses to “Talk About Restlessness…

  1. Hm..
    I have a near-constant need to move my legs. Just kind of shaking, tapping my feet, that sort of thing. It’s more like fidgeting I guess; it’s not painful when I don’t do it and honestly I have a hard time describing what it does feel like! It’s more like.. I just feel anxious if I don’t do it and my legs start to feel really restless. If I force myself not to move the feeling builds and eventually I’ll twitch and start moving. I know when I am experiencing high anxiety I can’t sit still at all, but even when I’m calm I move my legs/feet. I’ve never taken an antipsychotic or neuroleptic and I’ve always just passed it off as a quirk, honestly. I don’t think I have akathisia but I can definitely relate to the need to move!

  2. New one to me. Hope you can get better answers about it. Sorry for your pain, doesn’t sound very pleasant most the time.

  3. Oooooo I am soooo grateful you wrote Sarah! I have BiPolar with psychotic episodes that now is alot more like schizoaffective disorder bipolar type. Anyway this akathisia is HORRIBLE FOR ME. This is a cycle I go through constantly…..I will be bedridden for weeks. I have in home care because I cant do anything. I will think Im dying of cancer or God is telling me He is getting ready to take me home (I still dont know if He is or not). Than I will feel really guilty for getting SSI because I will say there is NOTHING WRONG WITH MY MIND! Than it happens in a minute, Im shaking all over , twitching, Ill be shocked by my face in the mirror because Im making horrific facial expressions Finally it gets so bad I lay on the floor in the fetal position growling, moaning and sobbing without tears and sever dry wretching. I hold myself back from screaming to the top of my lungs and thrashing until I have no more strength. cont.

  4. Cont. Ill think “I know Im not demon possessed, maybe it was some kind of intercessional prayer. Than mom calls “How are you?” “O great.” How in the world can you tell someone what you are going through. Im in a stage like that now. I spent the last 3 days growling and painting all the furniture in my house 18k gold color. I dont blame someone for laughing but it REALLY is like taking a bad hallucinigenic and begging for it to wear off! Im trying not to think about sewing or doing a word search on the web. Those are the kind of things I start and just cant stop. I live alone and dont see very many people because it is hard enough to deal with myself. One more persons energy is just too much. And the anxiety of being with other people starts the akathisia and I have to hold it back until Im alone. I take meds which can cause akathisia, but trust me IT WAS WORSE BEFORE THE MEDS!!
    DR. LOVE

  5. Eyarrgh. I found out the hard way that this is my reaction to phenathiazines and common anti-nauseants like Reglan. Hard way? I was pregnant with my first baby. The retards at the hospital had been pumping me full of compazine but didn’t recognize the symptom. It was *horrible*. I had no idea what was going on. To make matters worse, the shrink on duty gave me Xanax, a known teratogen. o.O Luckily a baby pharm intern knew her stuff and diagnosed it. I owe that young lady SOOOO much . . . like my healthy baby.

    I just found your blog now because for some reason it’s happening again (baby is 27 now!) and I’m wondering if it’s some sort of weird mania. Sigh. Le crazy drugs, how they run us ragged.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s