Side Effects of Abilify

Abilify Side Effects – Should You Avoid Using It?

Living in a world where everything is available at your fingertips could be both a blessing and a curse. One needs to find the balance between risks and benefits when addressing medical issues.

The same is the case with drugs or medicines. If used within the prescribed limits as prescribed by the physician, they could help resolve and get rid of the primary problem in no time. In contrast, if they are used as per the individual’s own will – something that is termed as ‘self-medication,’ then the patient might not be so lucky in experiencing the same beneficial effects.

The reason behind the occurrence of side effects is a complex relationship between the medication dose and the particular biological makeup of the individual.

One such drug that is under discussion today is Abilify. This is the brand name for Aripiprazole. Abilify is a drug that is most commonly prescribed for patients suffering from Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Tourette Syndrome, and major depressive disorder.

Abilify – An Overview

Abilify is a second-generation antipsychotic drug. Its generic name is Aripiprazole. Since it is an anti-psychotic drug that is used for several major psychiatric illnesses, and it is only available under a certified doctor’s prescription. (1)

Aripiprazole is an FDA-approved drug, which means that it is considered safe to be prescribed and used by people suffering from the specified psychiatric disorders for which it is designed. (2)

Indications of Abilify:

Abilify is most commonly indicated to be used in patients with:

  • Tourette Syndrome (from 6 to 18 years of age)
  • Major Depressive Disorder (in those adults in whom one antidepressant is not enough to suppress the symptoms)
  • Schizophrenia (from 13 years of age)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (between 6 to 17 years of age). (3)

Administration of Abilify:

Abilify is available in three forms – tablet, oral solution, and an injectable (IM) form. However, the former two are commonly used than their latter counterpart.

Depending upon the patient’s response and the severity of their symptoms, the dose of Abilify may be altered by the physician as deemed feasible. (4)

Mechanism Of Action:

Abilify is termed a ‘dopamine system stabilizer’ (DSS). This means that it has a dual mode of action, for the purpose of understanding its mechanism of action.

When there is low amount of dopamine in the system, Abilify works to increase the activity of dopamine on the dopamine receptors to restore its normal function.

In contrast, when dopamine levels are high or the dopamine receptor is seen to be overactive,Abilify works to minimize the activity of dopamine in its receptors in order to make sure that the brain does not go into overdrive. (5)

Side Effects of Abilify

Just like every other drug, some individuals may experience side effects from Abilify. Its excessive or unwatched usage could lead to people developing side effects, and that is when things take a turn for the worse. (6)

Some common side effects of Abilify include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, rash, hives formation, or itching. However, these side effects are usually self-limiting and may disappear on their own.

Additionally, some individuals may experience ‘major’ side effects as well. Here is a list of the most commonly experienced ‘major’ side effects of Abilify:

1. Stroke:

Cerebrovascular accident or stroke is a rare side effect that may occur in the elderly population, especially in people with dementia. The exact mechanism of this event is not known, and there could be other factors that play a role in stroke development in this population group. (7-8) b

2. Uncontrolled Body Movements:

This phenomenon is medically termed as ‘Tardive Dyskinesia.’ When it occurs, some of the body parts, including the face, tongue, hands, and feet, may develop uncontrolled movements which might not go away easily.

It could become difficult for a person to manage their medical conditions along with this side effect, as it might impair their means to take their prescribed medications.

3. Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome:

People who took Abilify were also seen to suffer from a condition called Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome.

Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome is a life-threatening condition that begins with the stiffening of muscles, high-grade fever, sweating, confusion, and changes in blood pressure, pulse, and heart rate. It is for reasons like these that individuals are told to report any serious symptom at once to their doctor.

4. Compulsive Behavior:

Some individuals also reported experiencing compulsive behavior such as urges, binge eating, shopping impulses, and even sexual urges. These symptoms could be attributed to the dopamine-related changes that go on within the body due to Abilify.

5. Orthostatic Hypotension:

Some people have also reported experiencing lightheadedness when standing due to Abilify. This, again, has to do with the mechanism of action of the drug itself.

6. Other Uncommon Side Effects:

Apart from some of these major side effects, there are other side effects too that people have reported. Some of them are listed as follows:

  • Hyperprolactinemia (increased levels of the hormone Prolactin)
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Falls
  • Hyperglycemia leading to diabetes
  • Increased fat levels. (9)

Should I Still Take Abilify if Prescribed?

All the adverse effects and reactions to this drug are just one side of the story. There is always another side to the story. Abilify has proven to be effective and safe for people with certain psychiatric disorders, and they are able to control their conditions with the help of their doctors.

All these positive outcomes should be sufficient enough to convince people that Abilify is indeed a safe drug. After all, it is FDA-approved, and that in itself is proof that it is a safe drug to be used, but only under the correct prescription and within the limits advised by the doctor.

The side effects do not, in any way, make the use of Abilify controversial by people. In case of any fear or questions, it is always better to consult the physician who prescribed it. Usually, psychiatrists also resort to prescribing it from the lowest dosage.

So, it is completely safe to say that Abilify is indeed an efficacious and safe drug that can help people who suffer from certain psychiatric illnesses if taken as prescribed by the doctor.

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  2. Shirley M, Perry CM. Aripiprazole (ABILIFY MAINTENA®): a review of its use as maintenance treatment for adult patients with schizophrenia. Drugs. 2014 Jul;74(10):1097–110. Aripiprazole (ABILIFY MAINTENA®): a review of its use as maintenance treatment for adult patients with schizophrenia – PubMed (
  3. ABILIFY® (aripiprazole) | Official Site [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 9]. Available from:
  4. Abilify Dosage Guide [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 10]. Available from:
  5. Aripiprazole – Mechanism of Action, Clinical Efficacy and Side Effects [Internet]. Psych Scene Hub. 2023 [cited 2023 May 11]. Available from:
  6. Pae CU. A review of the safety and tolerability of aripiprazole. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2009 May;8(3):373–86. A review of the safety and tolerability of aripiprazole: Expert Opinion on Drug Safety: Vol 8, No 3 (
  7. Zivkovic S, Koh CH, Kaza N, Jackson CA. Antipsychotic drug use and risk of stroke and myocardial infarction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry. 2019 Jun 20;19:189. Antipsychotic drug use and risk of stroke and myocardial infarction: a systematic review and meta-analysis – PMC (
  8. FDA drug label data. ABILIFY (aripiprazole). [cited 2023 July 7] Available from: ABILIFY (aripiprazole) (
  9. Abilify Side Effects: Common, Severe, Long Term – [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 10]. Available from:

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