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

Antipsychotic medications, also called just 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.

Search for a doctor in your region

What are antipsychotic medications?

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.

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 or paranoia (where you believe things that aren’t real) 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.

Types of antipsychotic medications

There are two main types of antipsychotic medications:

  • ‘typical’ antipsychotics are an older type of medicine that has been used for many years
  • ‘atypical’ antipsychotics 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 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.

See tips on using medications safely.

Looking for more medicine information?

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.

Last reviewed: April 2016

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 353 results

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

The best treatment for psychotic illness usually includes a combination of antipsychotic medication (antipsychotics), psychological therapy and commun...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Antipsychotic medications

Trusted information about antipsychotic medications including what are they, what they are used for, types, benefits and side effects plus links to the trusted resources.

Read more on mindhealthconnect website

Antipsychotic medication | Your Health in Mind

Looking after someone? Are you helping someone with a mental illness? Help for carers

Read more on RANZCP - The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists website

Tardive Dyskinesia | myVMC

Tardive Dyskinesia is thought to be caused by antipsychotic medications that act on dopamine receptors in the central nervous system

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Medication-induced cutaneous pigmentation - ACD

Medication-induced cutaneous (skin) pigmentation (MIP) is due to various topical, oral and intravenous medications.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Antipsychotics (psychosis medications) information | myVMC

Conventional antipsychotics or neuroleptics are a class of drugs used to treat psychosis symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions and aggression.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Schizophrenia treatments (schizophrenia medication) video | myVMC

Schizophrenia treatments include schizophrenia medication called antipsychotics. They are essential for managing schizophrenia symptoms.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Alzheimer's Australia | Lewy Body Disease

Lewy body diseaseis a common form of dementia, sharing many similarities with Alzheimers disease. Causes, diagnosis and progression are described here.

Read more on Alzheimer's Australia website

Haldol Decanoate Solution for injection - myDr.com.au

Haldol Decanoate Solution for injection - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information 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

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 Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback