Akathisia: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Natural Remedies

Akathisia is a distressing neurological condition characterized by an overwhelming urge to constantly move, along with a feeling of inner restlessness. It can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and often arises as a side effect of certain medications used to treat various psychiatric disorders. In this article, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, possible illnesses associated with akathisia, as well as explore natural remedies that can be tried at home. 

Types of Akathisia 

Akathisia manifests in various forms, each presenting its unique characteristics and challenges. Understanding the different types of akathisia is essential for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment. In this section, we explore the distinct variants of akathisia, shedding light on their distinguishing features and implications. 

1. Acute Akathisia 

Acute akathisia is characterized by the sudden onset of restlessness shortly after starting or increasing the dosage of a medication. It often manifests as an intense urge to move, accompanied by an inability to sit or stand still. The symptoms may be distressing and can significantly impact daily functioning. Prompt recognition and management are vital to minimize discomfort and prevent further complications. 

2. Chronic Akathisia 

Unlike its acute counterpart, chronic akathisia persists for an extended period, typically lasting more than three months. Individuals with chronic akathisia experience ongoing restlessness and a constant need to move. This condition can be highly debilitating, leading to significant emotional distress and impaired quality of life. Long-term management strategies are crucial to alleviate symptoms and enhance overall well-being. 

3. Tardive Akathisia 

Tardive akathisia is a delayed-onset variant that occurs as a side effect of prolonged use or withdrawal from certain medications, particularly antipsychotics. It typically emerges weeks or months after starting or discontinuing the medication. Symptoms include restlessness, repetitive movements, and a constant sense of inner agitation. Timely recognition and appropriate intervention are essential to mitigate the impact of tardive akathisia. 

4. Withdrawal Akathisia 

Withdrawal akathisia arises when certain substances or medications, such as benzodiazepines or opioids, are abruptly discontinued or significantly reduced. The sudden alteration in neurotransmitter balance can trigger severe restlessness, anxiety, and an overwhelming urge to move. Gradual tapering under medical supervision is crucial to minimize withdrawal symptoms, including akathisia. 

5. Neuroleptic-induced Akathisia 

Neuroleptic-induced akathisia is primarily associated with the use of antipsychotic medications. It typically occurs within the first few weeks of starting or adjusting the dosage of these medications. Restlessness, constant motion, and an inner sense of unease characterize this variant. Early recognition and close collaboration between patients and healthcare providers are crucial for effective management. 

Causes of Akathisia 

Akathisia, characterized by an irresistible urge to move and inner restlessness, can stem from various causes. Identifying the underlying factors is crucial for effective management. Here are the primary causes of akathisia: 

1. Medications: A Common Culprit Medications, particularly antipsychotics and antidepressants, are the leading cause of akathisia. These drugs disrupt the normal functioning of neurotransmitters, leading to motor system abnormalities and restlessness. 

2. Substance Withdrawal: An Unsettling Trigger Withdrawal from substances like benzodiazepines or illicit drugs can induce akathisia-like symptoms. Abrupt discontinuation or rapid tapering of these substances can disrupt the neurochemical balance, causing restlessness and movement difficulties. 

3. Neurological Disorders: Disturbing the Balance Certain neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, can contribute to the development of akathisia. The underlying neurodegenerative processes disrupt the motor system, resulting in restlessness and an urge to move. 

4. Other Factors: Unveiling Possibilities In rare cases, akathisia can arise from other factors, such as hormonal imbalances, metabolic disturbances, or adverse reactions to specific medications. 

Understanding the causes of akathisia is vital for both healthcare professionals and individuals experiencing symptoms. By pinpointing the triggers, appropriate interventions and tailored treatments can be implemented to alleviate this distressing condition.  

Symptoms of Akathisia 

Akathisia, a distressing neurological condition, manifests through various noticeable symptoms. Being able to identify these signs is crucial for early intervention and appropriate treatment. Below are the primary symptoms associated with akathisia: 

1. Irresistible Urge to Move: Individuals with akathisia experience an overwhelming and uncontrollable urge to constantly move their body. This sensation often presents as a powerful need to pace, tap the feet, or shift positions frequently. 

2. Pacing or Fidgeting: Restlessness is a hallmark of akathisia. Affected individuals may find it difficult to remain still, constantly feeling compelled to engage in repetitive movements like pacing back and forth or restless fidgeting. 

3. Inability to Sit Still: Akathisia commonly causes an inability to sit or stand in one place for an extended period. Those affected may feel an intense discomfort when attempting to remain motionless, often needing to readjust their position or move their limbs involuntarily. 

4. Inner Discomfort or Unease: Akathisia is accompanied by a pervasive feeling of inner restlessness, as if one’s skin is crawling. This internal discomfort contributes to the urge to move continuously, seeking relief from the unpleasant sensation. 

5. Muscle Tension and Jerky Movements: Some individuals with akathisia may experience muscle tension, stiffness, or tightness. Additionally, they may exhibit involuntary jerky movements or tremors, which can be distressing and interfere with daily activities. 

Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for accurate diagnosis and timely treatment. If you or someone you know experiences these signs, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.  

Possible Illnesses Associated with Akathisia 

Possible Illnesses Associated with Akathisia 

Akathisia, a distressing neurological condition, often emerges as a side effect of certain medications. However, it can also manifest as a symptom of various underlying illnesses. In this section, we explore the possible illnesses associated with akathisia, shedding light on their interconnectedness. 

Psychiatric Disorders 

Akathisia is frequently observed in individuals undergoing treatment for psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The use of antipsychotic medications, which modulate neurotransmitters in the brain, can trigger akathisia. Understanding this link is crucial for clinicians managing patients with psychiatric illnesses. 

Substance Withdrawal 

Withdrawal from substances like benzodiazepines, prescribed medications, or illicit drugs can induce akathisia-like symptoms. Individuals undergoing detoxification or discontinuing substance use may experience restlessness, an urge to move constantly, and inner discomfort. Identifying this association aids in appropriate management and support during withdrawal. 

Parkinson’s Disease 

Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, has been linked to the development of akathisia. The degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the brain characteristic of Parkinson’s can disrupt motor control and contribute to the emergence of akathisia symptoms. Recognizing this connection enables healthcare professionals to provide targeted interventions for individuals with both conditions. 

Understanding the potential illnesses associated with akathisia is vital for accurate diagnosis and comprehensive treatment. By recognizing these links, healthcare providers can tailor their approaches to address the underlying conditions contributing to akathisia symptoms, ultimately improving patients’ well-being.  

Natural Remedies to Treat Akathisia at Home 

Akathisia, a distressing neurological condition characterized by an irresistible urge to constantly move, can significantly impact one’s well-being. While medical intervention is crucial, exploring natural remedies can be a complementary approach to managing akathisia symptoms. Discover effective ways to find relief from akathisia at home with these natural remedies. 

1. Harness the Power of Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques 

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, potentially easing akathisia symptoms. Incorporate deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga into your daily routine. These practices have been known to calm the mind and body, allowing for better control over restlessness and inner turmoil. 

2. Embrace the Benefits of Regular Exercise and Physical Activity 

Engaging in regular physical activity, such as brisk walking or swimming, can be beneficial for individuals with akathisia. Exercise not only helps channel restlessness but also promotes the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators. By incorporating exercise into your routine, you may experience a reduction in akathisia symptoms and an overall improvement in well-being. 

3. Explore Herbal Supplements for Symptom Management 

Certain herbal supplements have shown promise in alleviating restlessness and promoting relaxation. Consider incorporating the following options under the guidance of a healthcare professional: 

  • Passionflower: Known for its calming properties, passionflower may help ease akathisia symptoms by reducing anxiety and restlessness. 
  • Valerian Root: Valerian root has been traditionally used as a natural sedative, potentially assisting in managing akathisia symptoms. 
  • Chamomile: Chamomile tea, known for its soothing effects, may provide relief from restlessness associated with akathisia. 

4. Optimize Your Diet for Nervous System Support 

Making dietary adjustments can play a role in managing akathisia symptoms. Consider the following dietary modifications: 

  • Limit Caffeine Intake: Caffeine can exacerbate restlessness and anxiety. Minimize or avoid caffeine-rich beverages such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks. 
  • Emphasize Magnesium-Rich Foods: Foods rich in magnesium, such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and legumes, can support the nervous system and potentially alleviate akathisia symptoms. 
  • Include B Vitamins: Foods like whole grains, eggs, dairy products, and leafy greens that are rich in B vitamins may contribute to nervous system health, potentially aiding in symptom management. 

Remember, while these natural remedies may provide relief for some individuals, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before trying them, as results may vary depending on individual circumstances.

Treatment Options 

Treatment Options 

Medication Adjustments 

  • Dosage Modification: Your healthcare provider may adjust the dosage of the medication causing akathisia or switch to an alternative with fewer side effects. 
  • Changing Medications: If the current medication is not well-tolerated, your doctor may recommend switching to a different medication that is less likely to induce akathisia. 
  • Combination Therapy: In some cases, combining medications, such as adding a beta-blocker or benzodiazepine to the current treatment regimen, may help manage akathisia symptoms effectively. 

Psychological Interventions 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT can help individuals cope with the distressing sensations and learn techniques to manage restlessness and anxiety associated with akathisia. 
  • Relaxation Techniques: Learning and practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery, can help reduce inner restlessness and promote a sense of calm. 

Lifestyle Modifications 

  • Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity, such as aerobic exercises or yoga, can help reduce anxiety, improve mood, and alleviate akathisia symptoms. 
  • Stress Management: Adopting stress-reducing techniques like mindfulness meditation, journaling, or engaging in hobbies can help manage akathisia symptoms triggered by stress. 

Natural Supplements 

  • Vitamin B6: Some evidence suggests that vitamin B6 supplementation may improve akathisia symptoms. However, consult with your doctor before adding any supplements to your treatment regimen. 
  • Iron and Magnesium: Adequate levels of iron and magnesium in the body are essential for proper neurological function. Your healthcare provider may recommend dietary changes or supplements to ensure optimal levels.  

*Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not substitute professional medical advice. Akathisia is a complex condition that requires proper evaluation and treatment by a qualified healthcare provider. Natural remedies should be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. 

Author Contribution: Reviewed by Dr. Ram Reddy, MD – General Physician,  Dr. Sadiq Mohammed, MD – Orthopedics, and Rajeshwar Rao, Pharm D.

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