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What is Akathisia? Understanding the Basics

Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju
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Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

Akathisia is a neurological disorder that often goes unnoticed, yet its impact on individuals can be profound. It is frequently characterized by an intense inner restlessness and an overwhelming urge to move. Akathisia poses challenges to both mental and physical well-being. This condition can arise as a side effect of certain medications. It is particularly those used in psychiatric treatments. They make recognizing and addressing its signs crucial.

So, what is akathisia? This term originates from the Greek words “akathemi,” meaning “not to sit.” It underscores the discomfort and agitation experienced by those affected. Despite its prevalence, akathisia remains underdiagnosed. It leads to increased suffering for those grappling with its effects. In this exploration of akathisia, we grub into its fundamental aspects. We shed light on its symptoms, causes, and the impact it can have on individuals’ daily lives. Comprehending the basics of akathisia is crucial to fostering awareness. Also, it is vital for facilitating effective management of this often misunderstood condition.


Unmasking Akathisia Symptoms

Infographic of Akathisia symptoms

Such disorder manifests through a spectrum of signs that vary in intensity and duration. Recognizing these signs is paramount for timely intervention and management. Here’s a comprehensive list of akathisia symptoms:

  • Restlessness: An overwhelming sense of inner discomfort and the constant need to move.
  • Inability to Sit Still: Constant anxiety prevents people from remaining in one position for a long time.
  • Leg Fidgeting: Repetitive leg movements, such as tapping or rocking back and forth.
  • Pacing: Incessant walking or pacing, often without a clear purpose.
  • Agitation: Heightened emotional distress, accompanied by an inner sense of unease.
  • Muscle Tension: Increased muscle stiffness or tension, contributing to restlessness.
  • Anxiety: Elevated levels of stress that may be disproportionate to the situation.
  • Compulsive Movements: Involuntary, repetitive movements, like finger tapping or foot shuffling.
  • Intolerance to Rest: Difficulty relaxing or finding relief even during rest periods.
  • Distress Vocalization: Expressing discomfort verbally, such as sighing or groaning.
  • Urge to Constantly Change Positions: A persistent need to shift positions to ease restlessness.
  • Feelings of Inner Torment: Subjective experiences of mental anguish and torment.

Knowing this array of akathisia symptoms is crucial for healthcare professionals and individuals. It helps to identify and address such diseases promptly. Also, it ensures effective management and improved quality of life for those affected.


Delving into the Causes of Akathisia

Knowing the underlying causes is essential. It helps to grasp the complexity of this neurological disorder. Akathisia can arise from various factors, and its origins are often linked to the use of specific medications. Here’s a closer look at the primary causes of akathisia:

  • Medication-induced: Akathisia is frequently a side effect of certain medications. It is particularly antipsychotics and antiemetics. These drugs alter dopamine levels in the brain, contributing to the development of akathisia.
  • Neurotransmitter Imbalance: Disruptions in neurotransmitter activity. It mainly involves dopamine, which plays a significant role in the onset of akathisia. Imbalances in the intricate interplay of neurotransmitters can lead to heightened restlessness.
  • Withdrawal from Medications: Abrupt discontinuation or rapid reduction of certain medications. They include benzodiazepines and antipsychotics. Such drugs can trigger akathisia as the body reacts to the sudden change.
  • Predisposing Factors: Risk groups include people with drug sensitivity. Also among them is a family history of movement disorders. Also in this group are those with a previous history of akathisia.
  • Drug Interactions: The combination of many medications. Especially those affecting the central nervous system. They can create a synergistic effect, increasing the likelihood of akathisia.
  • Psychiatric Disorders: Underlying schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may contribute to akathisia. The interaction between the disorder and medication can amplify the risk.
  • Individual Variability: Genetic factors and individual differences in drug metabolism are crucial. They may influence the likelihood and severity of akathisia.

Exploring these multifaceted causes of akathisia is vital. Healthcare professionals can better identify and address the root factors contributing to akathisia. This understanding is pivotal for devising tailored treatment plans. Also, it is vital for mitigating the impact of this challenging condition on individuals’ lives.


Specific Types of Akathisia

Such illness is not a uniform condition. Instead, it presents in distinct forms with varying characteristics. Recognizing these particular types of akathisia is crucial for accurate diagnosis. Also, they are vital for tailored treatment approaches. Here are notable variants:

  • Acute: Rapid onset of intense restlessness and agitation. It is often occurring shortly after the initiation of medication.
  • Chronic: Persistent and long-lasting restlessness may endure for months or even years. It poses significant challenges to daily functioning.
  • Tardive: Delayed signs onset usually occur after long-term use of certain medications. It is especially antipsychotic.
  • Late-Onset: This form manifests after an extended period of medication use. It is even in individuals who did not initially display manifestations.
  • Withdrawal: Occurs when discontinuing or reducing certain medications. They lead to heightened restlessness and discomfort.
  • Psychotic: Combines signs of akathisia with psychotic features. Among them are hallucinations or delusions, presenting a unique clinical challenge.
  • Aim: Diagnosed based on observable motor restlessness and the inability to sit still. It contrasts with subjective accounts of restlessness.
  • Subjective: Mostly self-reported, focusing on internal feelings of unease and discomfort. They are often difficult to quantify objectively.

Understanding these specific types of akathisia is vital for healthcare professionals. It helps to tailor interventions to the unique characteristics of each variant. Also, it enhances communication between patients and healthcare providers. It fosters more precise diagnostics and effective management strategies.


Navigating Akathisia Treatment Options

Patient discussing medication with a doctor

Effectively addressing therapy requires a nuanced approach. It considers the specific type and underlying causes. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, various interventions aim to alleviate signs. Also, they help to improve the quality of life for individuals affected by this neurological disorder. Key akathisia treatment options include:

  • Medication Adjustments: Modifying or stopping drugs that cause it is often the first step. This may include changing your dosage or switching to an alternative medication. Also, they may involve adjusting your overall treatment plan.
  • Beta Blockers: Drugs such as propranolol can mitigate the physical manifestations of akathisia. It happens by blocking the effects of adrenaline, thereby reducing restlessness.
  • Benzodiazepines: These medications, like clonazepam, may alleviate anxiety and muscle tension.
  • Anticholinergic Medications: Some drugs that block acetylcholine receptors may counteract the dopamine-boosting effect.
  • Botulinum Toxin Injections: Injecting it into specific muscles may help relieve localized signs. Among them is muscle stiffness.
  • Counseling and Supportive Therapy: Psychological interventions include counseling and support groups. They can assist individuals in coping with the emotional impact of akathisia.
  • Monitoring and Awareness: Regular monitoring of signs is pivotal. Also, a heightened awareness of any changes in medication response is crucial. They help with timely intervention and adjustment of the treatment plan.
  • Individualized Approaches: Tailoring therapy relates to the specific type and severity of akathisia. This also takes into account individual factors. Among them are age, overall health, and medication tolerance.

Navigating akathisia treatment involves collaboration between healthcare professionals and individuals affected. It emphasizes the importance of personalized care plans. This comprehensive approach aims to cut the impact of akathisia on daily life while promoting well-being.



Grasping the fundamentals of what akathisia is is essential. It helps to recognize and address this often-overlooked neurological disorder. The term encapsulates an inner restlessness and an irresistible urge to move. Specific medications typically trigger it. Enhanced awareness of the signs, causes, and diverse types is pivotal for timely intervention. We foster a deeper understanding. So, we empower healthcare professionals and individuals to navigate this complex condition. It promotes effective management and improves the overall quality of life for those affected.



  • How is akathisia different from other movement disorders?

Akathisia stands out from other movement disorders. It is by its distinctive symptom of inner restlessness and an intense urge to move, often induced by specific medications.


  • What are the common symptoms of akathisia?

Common symptoms of akathisia include persistent restlessness and the inability to sit still. Also, they involve leg fidgeting, pacing, heightened anxiety, and compulsive movements.


  • How to treat akathisia?

Treatment for akathisia involves adjusting medications. It considers options like beta blockers or benzodiazepines. Also, it regards personalized approaches to ease signs and improve well-being.


  • Can akathisia be temporary, or is it a chronic condition?

Akathisia can be temporary, arising acutely in response to medication changes, or become chronic. It lasts for an extended period, depending on the underlying causes and management strategies.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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