Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Antipsychotic medications

3-minute read

What are antipsychotic medications?

Antipsychotic medication (antipsychotics) are medicines that can help ease the symptoms of a psychosis. Psychosis is a mental health condition that affects how the brain works.

There are different types of antipsychotic medications. Sometimes they cause side effects. Talk with your doctor or mental health nurse about what might work best for you.

Antipsychotic medications are medicines used to treat psychosis. Psychosis is an illness that makes it hard to tell what is real and what isn’t. They may also help anxiety and agitation, and problems with mood, thinking and socialising.

Sometimes you might get psychosis if you already have illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression. It might cause you to have confused thinking, delusions (where you believe things that aren't real, paranoia (unjustified suspicion or mistrust of others) or hallucinations (where you see, hear, feel, smell or taste things that are not actually there). Antipsychotic medications can help reduce these symptoms, or sometimes even get rid of them.

Antipsychotic medications sometimes work better if you also use psychological therapy (psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy, given by a psychiatrist or psychologist) and community support.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Types of antipsychotic medications

There are 2 main types of antipsychotic medications:

  • 'Typical' antipsychotics, also known as 'first-generation' medications, are an older type of medicine that has been used for many years.
  • 'Atypical' antipsychotics, or second-generation medications, are newer medicines.

Atypical antipsychotics are used most often, but some people prefer the older medications. It’s best to talk about your options with your doctor, to find out what works best for you.

Most antipsychotics are tablets, which you need to take every day. Others are given by regular injection (called 'depot' medication). These release medicine into the body slowly over several weeks. Some people prefer injections so they don’t need to remember to take their tablets.

Benefits of using antipsychotic medication

The main benefit of using antipsychotic medication is to help control the symptoms of psychosis. Usually you will start feeling better within about 6 weeks of starting to take the medication. However, some people feel better within a week and others find it takes months.

If you are given an antipsychotic and it’s taking a while to work, be patient. It’s very important to talk to your doctor or mental health nurse before stopping or changing your treatment.

Side effects of antipsychotic medications

Antipsychotic medications can cause side effects. Side effects are different for different people.  Some people experience things like:

  • feeling sleepy
  • putting on weight
  • getting stiff muscles or restless movements
  • a dry mouth
  • blurred vision
  • feeling dizzy
  • constipation, nausea or indigestion
  • changes in sexual ability or desire

If you have any concerns about side effects, talk to your doctor or mental health nurse. Often there are things that can be done to reduce or stop them.

Resources and support

healthdirect’s medicines section allows you to search for medicines by brand name or active ingredient. It provides useful information about medicines such as their use, whether they are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and product recalls.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2021


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Antipsychotic medications - Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Antipsychotic Medication

The best treatment for psychotic illness usually includes a combination of antipsychotic medication, psychological therapy and community support. This pamphlet answers commonly-asked questions about antipsychotic medication (antipsychotics).

Read more on Mi Networks website

Antipsychotic medication

Antipsychotic medications work by altering your brain chemistry to reduce psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking. T...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Postpartum Psychosis | Peach Tree

Postpartum psychosis Postpartum or puerperal psychosis is a rare perinatal mood disorder about which most new mothers know very little or nothing at all

Read more on Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness website

Psychosis - MyDr.com.au

When someone experiences psychosis they are unable to distinguish what is real. Symptoms include confused thinking, delusions and hallucinations.

Read more on myDr website

Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a serious mental illness that can develop soon after you give birth. If you or your partner might have postpartum psychosis, speak with a doctor immediately.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Treatments for mental illness

Is mental illness treatable? Yes, mental illness can be treated. This means that many people who have a mental illness, and are treated, recover well...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Schizophrenia and Sleep

What is Schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a mental illness. About 1 in 100 people have it. It affects thoughts, behaviour, per-ceptions and emotions. It tends to start in the late teens or early 20s. People with schizophrenia can suffer from 'psychosis' when unwell. This means a loss of contact with reality. It includ

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Schizophrenia | Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Read about the risks, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia and Garvan's research for better management and outcomes.

Read more on Garvan Institute of Medical Research website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.