The Psychosocial Effects of Drug-Induced Akathisia

  • Luke Beardmore

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


Overall topic and aim: This thesis explored the psychosocial implications of the drug-induced movement disorder, akathisia. The thesis consists of three papers: 1) a systematic literature review, 2) an empirical study, and 3) a critical appraisal of the research process. The systematic literature review (Paper 1) is a mixed-methods narrative synthesis looking at the evidence for an association between akathisia and suicidality. 21 studies were identified (13 quantitative studies and eight case reports) from a search of five scientific databases. Seven of the quantitative studies reported a significant association between akathisia and suicidality, and six did not report a significant association. All case reports described an association between akathisia and suicidality. Akathisia and suicidality were associated with both first- and second- generation antipsychotic medications and this relationship was influenced by age, medication-related factors, affective and cognitive issues, and methods of assessing akathisia. The results are discussed in relation to existent research and implications for clinical practice are offered. The empirical study (Paper 2) explored service user's first-hand experiences of akathisia. Six participants took part in semi-structured interviews which were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Three superordinate themes were identified: Journey through the mental health system, adjustment to life with akathisia, and the internal experience of akathisia. Results demonstrated that participants associated akathisia with a plethora of psychological and social implications, including: changes in occupation, interaction, relationships, cognition, identity, psychological wellbeing and suicidality, compounded by negative experiences of mental health services. Findings were consistent with previous research and provide novel insights into the experiences of individuals who develop akathisia. Implications for clinical practice are offered. Paper 3 is a critical appraisal of the research process, which identifies the rationale for decisions made, evaluation of the methods used, additional strengths and limitations, and the contribution of the research to the literature on akathisia. The researcher's personal reflections are offered throughout.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorYvonne Awenat (Supervisor) & Sara Tai (Supervisor)


  • Clinical
  • Systematic review
  • Suicide
  • Psychological
  • Interpretative
  • Qualitative
  • Akathisia
  • Social

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