12 Side Effects of Antipsychotics We Don't Talk About
Side effects come with any medication you might be taking. Everything, from an antidepressant to Tylenol, has side effects. Of course, this means antipsychotic medication — usually prescribed for bipolar disorder and psychotic conditions — is also going to come with a few side effects of its own. We may not talk about all of these side effects, but they deserve their moment in the spotlight regardless.
So, if you’ve recently been prescribed an antipsychotic, or you’re switching to a new one, and don’t know what to expect, this one’s for you. We asked our community to name a few side effects of antipsychotic medication that we don’t talk about enough. Below, you can read what they had to say.
It’s important to know that not everyone who takes antipsychotics will experience all, or any, of these side effects. Medication works differently on everyone. When reading this article, keep in mind nothing is one-size-fits-all when it comes to mental health medication.
Here’s what our community had to say:
1. Akathisia — a side effect that makes it hard to stay still.
“Akathisia. I react to most antipsychotics with this inner restlessness that makes it feel like I need to tear out my bones or else I’ll explode.” — Vanessa L.
2. Struggling with words.
“Word-finding. I’ll replace words with other words and my sentences make absolutely no sense.” — Laura S.
3. Weight gain.
“Weight gain. It makes ‘not being depressed’ even harder when you’re so unhappy with how you look no matter how hard you try.” — Christina G.
“Weight gain and now my blood pressure stays up and my sugar is at prediabetic level. I’m on an older antipsychotic — it’s the only one that’s actually worked for me. I’m stable eight months and counting. I’ll take the side effects over the severe mood swings, voices and paranoia.” — Bethany B.
“The nausea is real with [my medication]. When I first started it, the restlessness was pretty bad but now it’s the nausea. Never had this problem with any med before.” — Ashleigh R.
“The nausea is pretty killer. It comes and goes, but when it’s here it really sucks. I get sick pretty often from taking mine but refuse to stop taking it because it has overall saved my life.” — Bailey V.
5. Dry mouth.
“Horrible dry mouth. I can’t go anywhere without bringing a water bottle.” — Nicole D.
“Tardive dyskinesia. Got it from taking [my medication] about 10 years ago. Uncontrollable jaw movement, looks like I’m constantly chewing. I am very self-conscious about it when around other people. Needless to say, not taking [it] anymore. The movements have gotten slower over the years but never completely stops.” — Tricia H.
“One of the weird symptoms I had experienced was Tardive dyskinesia. I would be grimacing and smacking my lips quite frequently. Restlessness and twitching also occurred.” — Becky V.
“Being incredibly tired. Like, ‘I can’t schedule any morning appointments because it’s not safe to drive’ tired. Also forgetfulness. It sucks having to play off being tired and forgetful all the time.” — Amy R.
“I swear that my antipsychotics make me so tired! I can’t drive at night anymore because I fall asleep at the wheel.” — Morgan T.
8. Issues with hormones.
“The doctors said my prolactin levels were so high that they thought I had a tumor on my pituitary gland. I had to get an MRI and everything. As soon as I safely discontinued my antipsychotic, my prolactin levels went back to normal.” — Jessica P.
9. Dystonia — a movement disorder that causes muscles to contract involuntarily.
“I’ve tried so many different antipsychotic meds but I almost always end up having a dystonic reaction. It causes the muscles in my face and neck to become stiff and I have a hard time breathing and swallowing. I’ve been hospitalized for it multiple times. As a result I’m having a very difficult time finding the right meds that will work for me.” — Oteesha L.
10. Memory loss.
“Memory loss. I was on antipsychotics for two years and I don’t remember much that happened. My boyfriend will tell a story or we will watch a movie and I won’t remember it.” — Charly B.
11. Hair loss.
“Hair loss. Between the medication and stress of life getting very real, I have lost so much hair. I’m 28 and have visible loss. If I don’t see someone for a little while, they assume I’ve cut my hair. Nope, it’s just thinning and falling out.” — Stephanie P.
“The hypersexuality. My bipolar comes with the lack of sex drive because depression is so prevalent in it, but no one tells you how, sometimes, your medication can send your sexuality into overdrive.” — Chantel S.
It’s important to create awareness about medication side effects not to scare people, but to let people know they aren’t alone in experiencing these things. If you experience any of these side effects and they are impacting your life in a way that makes it hard to function, talk to your doctor.
What symptom do you experience because of your antipsychotic?