Smiley Australia

Information on Medication Side Effects

It is important to note that many people take medications and suffer few side effects, for others side effects can be very debilitating.

Medication can cause side effects of varying severity. We have commenced these pages with a general discussion on antidepressants and antipsychotics, the nature of problems involved in getting help with side effects, and some suggestions of things you can do towards getting yourself heard.

Following this we have individual descriptions of the neurological and physical side effects together with links to important sites for those affected.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is very dangerous to suddenly stop taking your medication and under no circumstances should you consider doing this. Please seek expert advice from your GP or health care provider and never adjust your dosage without expert advice.

Antidepressants in General:

Anyone who has read the information sheets for antidepressants will have been confronted with a vast mind-numbing list of potential side effects. Despite the fact that many of these can be extremely serious, patients and carers regularly find it difficult to have anything actually done about them.

The best advice anyone could give to someone in this situation is to learn all you can about these side effects so you recognise them properly and can argue successfully that something be done.

The other difficulty is that the words don't really convey the full impact of experiencing any of these to the point where anyone by the time they get to the end of the list, could be forgiven for reading blah, blah, blah.

One desciption you will find is "restless legs".

This benign description vastly understates the potential severity of this condition. The medical term for 'restless legs' is Akathisia.

Akathisia can be extremely serious and left untreated can lead to suicide. You would not draw 'suicide' from the term 'restless legs' would you? (We have a full write up on Akathisia in the side effects information later in this section).

Yet another description which we will discuss here in detail is:

"attack of excessive excitability (mania)"

Anyone who had never experienced or observed 'mania' would automatically assume 'excitability'. That is the word they understand the meaning of. What does 'excitability' mean - you get excited, so what?

Anyone new to mental health may think - 'Well, I'm feeling depressed, I wouldn't mind an attack of excessive excitement...
How wrong would they be? If you are new to mental health we suggest you go to our Bipolar page and read up on 'mania' - immediately!

How would that person recognise if they had mania if they didn't know what it was? Would they associate the medication with bizarre behaviour?

Most people are of the mindset that medicines make you better, they are not thinking that their doctor has prescribed something that could (through no fault of the doctor) potentially also make them very ill.

People generally underestimate the power of these drugs to interfere with the thinking process. When the thoughts and moods experienced are coming from the patients own mind it is perfectly natural for them, or their carer to assume it is the patient's condition.

One of the symptoms of mania is a lack of insight into your own behaviour, so would you even notice? Would anyone associate this behaviour with the medication or would they think the patient's condition was getting worse?

We have chosen to discuss this particular side effect because of it's potential for misdiagnosis and the potential flow-on consequences of that. Antidepressant induced mania is very difficult to distinguish from the manic phase of Bipolar Disorder. Many people take antidepressants with few problems, however some people appear not to tolerate these drugs which can cause them to behave in unusual or bizarre ways.

It is long known that antidepressants cause mania in people with Bipolar Disorder that is why they are not usually recommended for use on their own for patients with bipolar disorder. It is therefore easy to see how this mistaken interpretation can occur.

The fact that antidepressants can cause a side-effect of mania in other non-bipolar patients seems not generally acknowledged by medical and mental health professionals. This is despite the fact that it is explicitly mentioned not only in drug-specific Consumer Information Sheets, but in the RANZCP Guidelines and the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders).

It is said that the likely time for these side effects to appear is when starting the medication, when the dosage is increased or decreased, or when the patient ceases taking the medication. These reactions may come on immediately or they may not occur for a number of weeks (and some say months).

This is a worrying development as many doctors and clinicians appear unable to distinguish between what symptoms are a result of a bad reaction to medication and what is a symptom of the actual illness. In many instances the type of reaction will mimic symptoms of mental illness including psychosis and mania, it is apparent how this confusion can occur.

A not insignificant number of patients are being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder or even schizoaffective disorder when in fact their symptoms are purely iatrogenic (caused by the medication they are taking). These symptoms can improve over time if the offending medication is changed or ceased.

In a disturbing consequence, misdiagnosed patients are then being treated with antipsychotics for an incorrectly diagnosed disorder which they do not have. The failure to recognise the temporary nature and real cause of these reactions can lead the patient to an extended or lifetime reliance on medications.

It must also be said that if you do suffer a psychotic reaction to an antidepressant that you may need antipsychotic medication to alleviate the psychosis. In these circumstances however one would expect that the prescribing doctor would acknowledge that this is only temporary due to your reaction to medication and not some underlying mental disorder.

Once a patient is diagnosed as 'Bipolar' or 'Psychotic' such a diagnosis can be near impossible to overturn. It is very difficult to find a doctor that will over-rule a preceding diagnosis, be prepared to search for a doctor who will spend the time to understand you and your history.

It is not difficult to fit the criteria for Bipolar Disorder - strictly speaking you only need to have one or more manic or hypomanic episodes in your lifetime accompanied by one or more depressive or mixed episodes.

If your 'one' manic episode is as a result of medication you are taking for an episode of depression you can see where it's heading.

Once again we say do not underestimate the value of keeping records of the progress of your condition or a personal history so you can demonstrate that you have never suffered with mania at any time in the past and your behaviour since taking medication is totally out of character. Get support from family or friends if necessary.

Bipolar Disorder, as with Schizophrenia usually first appears in adolescence to early adulthood. These disorders do not generally appear in middle age. If you have never had a manic, hypomanic, depressive or psychotic episode in the past it is statistically unlikely that later life onset of symptoms will be due to any one of these illnesses.

Antipsychotics in General:

Long term use of some antipsychotics at high doseage is known to cause diabetes in patients. Many antispychotics cause weight gain which is complicated by the sedative effects of the drugs. Patients often lack energy and motivation and lead a sedentary life style. This compounds the risk of potential diabetes or heart problems later on.

Another complication of taking some antipsychotics (and antidepressants) can be the slowing of the colon. Patients may experience difficulties with constipation. This is avoided by regular walking and exercise however again a sedentary lifestyle makes dealing with this side effect difficult.

Some antipsychotics can affect your cholesterol levels dramatically, that is they increase your LDL (low density lipids or 'bad' cholesterol) and decrease your HDL (high density lipids or 'good' cholesterol).

Negative effects on your cholesterol levels in conjunction with a lack of exercise in the long term can cause heart disease. Further some antipsychotics can alter your heart rythym, your doctor should check for all of these side effects at regular intervals.

A Recipe for Confusion:

The 'trial and error' method of medication does nothing to resolve any of the above issues. Many times a patient is switched rapidly from one medication to another. There is little hope of pin-pointing where the problem is coming from unless a structured and methodic change in doseage or tablets is applied. It is all too easy to point the finger at the patient and say 'it's your illness'.

In Australia there appears to be a genuine unwillingness to acknowledge or accept that these medications cause as many serious side effects as they actually do. In the US there have been inumerable legal actions and more pending for various problems associated with these medications.

In the UK there has been much discussion on the topic and while some actions have been taken, their system is similar to our own meaning patients are facing the same brick wall as they are in Australia.

Australian authorities have been slow to diseminate information warning GPs, providers and patients of the dangers that these medications can pose.

Try and find detailed information on medication side effects in any literature - professional or otherwise. Side effects are mentioned, so we do have an acknowledgement that they exist but they are not discussed at length or in detail or in any manner that would give patients an insight into what to look for.

How does this happen?

The medical system operates primarily on statistics. For example, if you are a certain age and have certain symptoms there is 'statistically' a likelihood you will be suffering from a particular affliction as opposed to another affliction with similar symptoms but not generally found in your age group. This is a wonderful way of narrowing down the array of possibilities for those making the diagnosis.

The problem arises when the system doesn't wish to acknowledge, doesn't recognise or hesitates to report drug side effects. In this instance the statistics have the potential to be completely in error.

You can see the problem when these same statistics are applied to estimate the likelihood of you suffering from drug induced side effects. This refusal to acknowledge means side effects are not reported and therefore the true level of side effects are not reflected in the very data authorities use to monitor safety.

Many practitioners are of the opinion 'statistically' speaking, that certain side effects are rare, therefore they are not considered as a front-line possibility.

For the patient sitting with their doctor trying to have the doctor acknowledge that they are suffering particular 'issues' since starting their new tablet this can lead to a lack of trust in the medical estabishment when the doctor fails to acknowledge or validate their complaint.

Worse still is if the doctor responds by telling the patient that 'it is not likely to be the tablet because side effects such as that are rare'. What an extremely frustrating exercise for the patient, it can erode their confidence in themselves when what is essentially interpreted is that they are mistaken or imagining it.

Patients must be rewarded for taking an active interest and monitoring their mental health through the courtesy of the treating professional to not only listen, but to ACT upon patient's concerns. At the very least professionals should be reporting these events.

As far as statistics are concerned there is only one statistic worth remembering and that is: Junk information in equals junk information out.

Protect Yourself:

In the ongoing absence of any real acknowledgement by treating professionals of the potential of these occurrences the responsibility falls back onto the patient and their family or carer to ensure that they keep a record of the patients mental and physical condition to support any concerns they may have about the effect of a medication prescribed for the sufferer.

We have included a link for you to report medication side effects to the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The TGA is asking people to report their side effects no matter how 'insignificant' they appear. We urge you to take the opportunity to record with them any side effects you may be suffering as this will in turn and in time help others to be heard.

If you are ill the most valuable thing you will have is a record of the progress of your condition over time. It is easy to forget how things 'used to be' before you were taking medication.
Trying to explain to someone who doesn't know you well (i.e. a doctor) that these symptoms are not 'you' is extremely difficult if you have nothing to back up what you are saying.

On our 'Resources' page you will find a number of printable forms for you to keep track of your condition.

While we know that for many of you the thought of filling in a questionaire is something you would rather not be bothered with, doing so means that you have all the information you need if you require a second opinion or need to go to another doctor for whatever reason.

For more minor feelings of depression you may wish to consider the value of seeing a trained counsellor or psychologist. Many people look for a quick fix in tablets or to avoid the cost and time required for therapy. You can now get a rebate from Medicare for treatment provided by a Psychologist.

Your GP can provide you with a referral in certain instances for up to five sessions with a Psychologist at no cost to you. Therapy can be very beneficial and implemented properly will give you life long tools to cope with situations that can get you down. Your psychologist can work in conjunction with your GP if they feel medication is necessary.

More information can be accessed on our psychotherapy page about what types of therapy are available and how they work. We have also provided at the top of this page a link to a list of books (written by psychiatrists) on the subject of medication side effects which are well worth reading.

Need to Change your Medication?

As a patient who needs to try a different medication you need someone to be vigilant and observe you while undergoing that change.

If you are lucky enough to have family that can assist and keep you under observation then you are in a better position to do so.

If you are in a situation where you are on your own then you need to discuss with your doctor, case manager or mental health care worker some way of getting the supervision you need to make the change rather than continuing with medication that is not suitable for you or causing intolerable side effects.

Classifications of Side Effects:

Extrapyramidal Symptoms (EPS):

Extrapyramidal Side Effects are caused by older generation antipsychotics and to a lesser extent new generation or atypical antipsychotics.

Extrapyramidal symptoms are movement disorders that occur when there is a disruption of the brains extrapyramidal system.

Symptoms include:

  • Muscle Stiffness or rigidity
  • Slowing of Movements (Akinesia)
  • Muscle Spasms (Tardive Dystonia)
  • Over wet or drooling mouth
  • Restlessness (Akathisia)
  • Muscles Trembling or Shaking (Tremor)
  • Involuntary movements of parts of the body (Tardive Dyskinesia)

Anticholinergic Side Effects:

Anticholinergic symptoms are associated with some antidepressants, antipsychotics and some medications used to treat the side effects of antipsychotics.

  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty passing water
  • Blurred Vision
  • Passing a lot of water

Allergic Reactions:

Allergic reactions usually occur when commencing treatment or increasing dosage. Some reactions subside as the body becomes used to the medication, others require intervention.

  • Rash
  • New or unusual skin marks
  • Skin discolouration
  • Itchy skin
  • Sensitivity to Sun

Autonomic Side Effects:

The Autonomic Nervous System is controlled by the Central Nervous System. Autonomic functions are the 'automatic' body processes such as heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and temperature. Autonomic reactions are usually in response to CNS disturbances.

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling sick
  • Increased sweating (Diaphoresis)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Palpitations

Hormonal Side Effects:

  • Increased sex drive
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Difficulty achieving climax
  • Swollen/tender chest
  • Leaking of breast milk (Galactorrhea)
  • Period problems (Amenorrhea)
  • Periods less frequent

Psychic Side Effects:

  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Tension
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty getting to sleep
  • Difficulty staying awake during the day
  • Increased dreaming
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Lack of emotions
  • Depression
  • Sleeping too much

Miscellaneous Side Effects:

  • Losing weight
  • Putting on weight
  • Pins and needles
  • Headaches

Side Effect Descriptions:

Akathisia - from Greek a[not] kathisis[sitting]
Also known as Pacing/Restless Leg Syndrome:

Akathisia is the inability to sit still, feeling of compulsion to pace, walk about, being figety, unable to get comfortable or relax.

Akathisia can vary in intensity from mild feelings of internal and external restlessness to compulsive pacing for many hours a day and completely unable to stop this activity or resist the urge to get up and walk about.

This inner restlessness can be extremely distressing when left untreated as the sufferer is unable to control their actions. Even a concentrated effort to remain seated will result in the sufferer being up and walking around before they realize they are doing it.

Akathisia is always 'iatrogenic' meaning it is caused by medication. Akathisia can be caused by both antidepressant and antipsychotic (neuroleptic) medications.

Usually small reductions in the dosage of medication is all that is required to alleviate the problem.

Never accept that akathisia is a symptom of your illness (unless you were doing this activity before commencing medication). Many GPs and health care workers mistakenly believe (and will try to tell you) it is a symptom of your condition i.e. 'you are agitated'.

Untreated akathisia can lead to frustration, depression and ultimately suicide.


Akinesia (also known as 'bradykinesia') is the term for loss of energy or drive - it means slowing down of movements. You may complain of 'feeling like a zombie' or a feeling of being 'slowed down', have a loss of energy and drive. Physical signs of akinesia are a listless or lifeless appearance, loss of usual range of facial expression. Discuss this side effect with your doctor.


The definition of anxiety is 'an abnormal and overwhelming worry and fear without any obvious or rational source'. Severe anxiety is often accompanied by physiological manifestations of fear such as sweating, cardiac disturbances (heart palpitations), diarrhea or vertigo.

Severe anxiety may lead to depression if left untreated. Depression and anxiety commonly go hand in hand. Inability to deal with issues when depressed can cause anxiety and worrying obsessively can lead to depression. Medications can also cause anxiety and they can also cause depression.

Blurred Vision:

Blurred vision is an anticholinergic side effect associated with some antidepressants and antipsychotics. Some medications used to treat side effects such as muscle stiffness can also cause a dry mouth. Other medical conditions can cause vision changes so please consult your doctor.


The definition of compulsion is 'an irresistable and overwhelming urge to perform an irrational act'. Compulsive and obsessive behaviour can be caused by medication and should be reported to your doctor as it may lead to dangerous behaviours with unnecessary or serious consequences if not attended to.

Compulsive Thoughts of Violence or Aggression:

There have been reports by patients of compulsive thoughts of violence or aggression against themselves or others when taking high doses of some (including 'new generation') antidepressants. These patients have no history of violence and these thoughts are completely out of character with the individuals concerned.

There are cases overseas of people acting out violent thoughts which are documented as an effect of medication - not a symptom of a mental illness.

If you find yourself having overwhelming thoughts to do something violent, or you have sudden extreme feelings of anger towards others for no good reason, please immediately seek help from your GP or health provider to review your medication.


The definition of confusion is 'a disturbance of consciousness characterised by inability to engage in orderly thought or lack of power to distinguish, choose or act decisively'. Confusion can be a result of your condition, your medication, or the after effect of certain types of seizures.


If you are suffering from constipation there are several things you can do to help youself these include:

Increase your intake of water
Increase physical exercise
Increase your intake of fibre - bran, cereals etc.
Try Lemon juice in warm water
Pear juice is laxative
Eat leafy green vegetables
Consult your doctor to see if you may need a mild laxative.

It is better to develop good eating habits as laxatives can be 'habit forming' and make your bowels lazy, in other words if you have too much laxative for too long your bowels may not want to work without it!

Severe or ongoing constipation should be referred to your doctor.


Diarrhea is liquid stools for more than 2 days.
If you have diarrhea please see your doctor straight away. Diarrhea apart from being a side effect can interfere with absorption of medications as they pass through too quickly.

For occasional stomach upset from external causes drink small amounts of clear soda water, eat dry saltines or toast. Do not take antacids without your doctor's permission.


Drooling or excessive salivation is an antipsychotic side effect. Commonly associated with the antipsychotic Clozapine however may be caused by other agents.

Excessive salivation is often worse at night and sufferers often wake with wet pillows in the morning. Excessive salivation in conjunction with difficulty swallowing may be caused by spasms of the swallowing muscles and should be reported to your doctor.

Dry Mouth:

Dryness of the lips and/or mouth is a common anticholinergic side effect associated with antipsychotics and antidepressants. This often occurs when starting medication. Some medications used to treat side effects such as muscle stiffness can also cause a dry mouth.

Increase fluid intake, rinse mouth often with water, try sugar free lollies or gum if this helps.

Discuss this issue with your doctor if it doesn't resolve itself.


Some psychiatric medications can cause insomnia, although sedation is a more frequent problem. Discuss this with your doctor who may be able to adjust your medication or make other recommendations to help you sleep.

Menstrual or Breast Problems:

Some antipsychotics cause irregular or missed periods. They may also elevate the hormone prolactin and cause abnormal leakage of breast milk. Please consult with your doctor.

Muscle Rigidity:

Muscle rigidity is a side effect more commonly occuring with the older generation antipsychotics, particularly Haloperidol, although it can occur with newer agents as well. If you are having difficulty moving around or you have difficulty moving your facial muscles, please see your doctor immediately.

Muscle rigidity can be relieved with other medication for side effects or your doctor may suggest a newer atypical antipsychotic to replace your old one.

Neuroleptic Malignant Sydrome:

Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS) is caused by antipsychotic medications (old and new generation).

In most cases symptoms develop within the first weeks of treatment (although they can appear immediately). Some symptoms may develop after months or years or after increased dosage of antipsychotic medication.

Symptoms can include:

  • Pallor
  • Stupor
  • Delirium
  • Dementia
  • Temperature elevation
  • Hyperthermia
  • High fever, with diaphoresis (profuse perspiration).
  • Tachycardia
  • Unstable cardiovascular signs.
  • Elevated respiratory rate.
  • Blood pressure fluctuations
  • Dyspnea (difficult laboured respiration)
  • Dysphagia (difficulty eating or swallowing)
  • Dyskinesias including tremors, rigidity, dystonia, and chorea - spasmodic movement of limbs and facial muscles, incoordination.
  • Urinary incontinence

Acute NMS mimics the symptoms of acute, severe lethargic encephalitis with the only distinguishing factor being the use of antipsychotic medication.

First line of treatment is the immediate discontinuation of the offending medication. Other medications may be prescribed to help relieve symptoms.

NMS is a serious iatrogenic (prescription drug induced) disorder. If unrecognised it can be fatal in approximately 20% of cases.

This syndrome frequently leaves the patient with permanent dyskinesias and dementia.

Pacing/Restless Leg Syndrome: See Akathisia

Pins and Needles:

Pins and needles require further investigation as they have a number of different causes - some minor, some significant, some depending on the level of your physical health. If you are suddenly experiencing numbness or pins and needles that don't go away please see your doctor.


Sedation is a common side effect of some antipsychotic medications. Excessive sedation may be helpful when you are very ill, however it can be a debilitating side effect if you are not. Discuss this with your doctor who may suitably review your medication.


Some drugs lower the seizure threshold meaning that people who may never have had a seizure can begin to experience them.

Seizures come in many forms from those that are hardly noticable to full tonic clonic seizures. Mild seizures or those that create minimal disturbance to the sufferer may go undetected. These can appear as 'zoning out' or brief moments of inattention, confusion, or unresponsiveness. In some seizure types there may be brief fluttering of the eyelids, or the eyes may roll back. Sometimes these mild seizures can be misinterpreted as fainting.

Seizures can also be symtomatic of other underlying problems such as diabetes, hypoglycaemia and medication or illicit drug toxicity etc. Seizures should be treated seriously by your health care professional and immediate efforts made to rule out some of the more critical causes of seizure activity.

For more detailed information on seizures please see our Epilepsy Information pages.

Sexual Side Effects:

Sexual side effects are common with antipsychotic and antidepressant medications. Antipsychotic medications can lead to a loss of normal sex drive in both sexes. Difficulties for males include problems with erection and ejaculation. Difficulties for females include orgasm and lubrication.

Suicidal Ideation:

This side effect is the most serious of all. Changes in thinking and focus caused by medications that create:

    Compulsive thought processes such as a compulsive and overwhelming focus on suicide or death.

    Impulsive action which can cause the patient to act to carry out their suicidal thoughts on a whim, without regard for the consequences of their actions.

If you have never contemplated suicide in the past and have gradually or suddenly found your thoughts increasingly focussed on the subject then you need to assess the potential for your medication to be causing this. If you believe your medication is potentially a cause of your thinking take immediate action to see your doctor and insist they review your medication.

Please act while you still have the ability to distinguish between what is your idea and what ideas are caused by medication. These thoughts will not likely go away on their own and you may be driven to carry out an act you would never normally contemplate.

Carers need to recognise that in these cases the patient is not able to think things through rationally and the most unimaginable scenarios can seem very logical in the patients own mind.

Sunburn or Sun Sensitivity:

Sun sensitivity is a side effect of antipsychotic medications making the skin super sensitive to the suns rays. Suitable protection must be worn when out in the sun however it is best to avoid prolonged exposure.

Wear sunglasses, hat or visor and protective clothing and use a good quality blockout lotion as needed.

Sweating Excessively (Diaphoresis):

Excessive sweating without external cause (i.e. the weather is not hot) is an autonomic symptom. Autonomic means the automatic system that governs or controls your automatic responses such as heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, temperature etc. Please see your doctor about this.

Tardive Dyskinesia:

'Tardive' meaning delayed 'Dys' meaning abnormal 'Kinesia' meaning movement

Tardive Dyskinesia is a CNS (Central Nervous System) disorder characterised by involuntary motor movements of the trunk and lower limbs, twitching and abnormal movements of the face and tongue. Tardive Dyskinesia is caused by medications, particularly antipsychotics (neuroleptics).

Although it may begin in almost any muscle group it commonly affects the facial muscles and progresses to other muscle groups.

These symptoms are not always constant but are likely to be made worse by anxiety and stressful situations. The symptoms are not generally apparent during sleep. Movements and severity displayed by those suffering with Tardive Dyskinesia vary greatly from person to person but generally can include:

    Head and Neck Muscles: (Common area of affliction)

  • Blinking of the eyes
  • Quivering, curling, or protrusion of the tongue (common sign).
  • Chewing movements which can become serious enough to damage teeth and make swallowing and chewing difficult.
  • Difficulties with speech.
  • Activation of the gag reflex - causing the sufferer to gag for no reason.
  • Twisting and flexing of the head and neck.
  • Chest, Torso, Arms and Legs:

  • Respiration - periodic rapid or irregular breathing.
  • Grunting
  • Tremors, spasms and writhing movements
  • Impairment of gait
  • Rocking and swaying
  • Shrugging shoulders
  • Continuous movement of the arms
  • Constant shuffling of feet
  • Rotation or thrusting of the pelvis

Patients may be able to subdue movements temporarily through exertion of willpower or may 'hug' themselves or clasp their hands together to limit these uncontrollable movements.

They may also mimic the movements to make it appear as though they mean to move their arms by smoothing their hair or any other movement they can make to cover up the involuntary movements.

Quite obviously this is a very distressing and embarrassing neurological disorder for the patient.

Sometimes Tardive Dyskinesia is overlooked or mistaken by doctors for emotional or psychological distress in the patient, in other words the symptoms are originating from the patient's emotional state. This mistaken diagnosis can often lead to an increase in the neuroleptic prescribed which serves to worsen the symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia.

Neuroleptics while causing Tardive Dyskinesia can also mask the disorder. The risk of developing Tardive Dyskinesia increases over time, i.e. the longer you are exposed to Neuroleptics the more likely you will develop the disorder, however it may appear even in short term drug therapy.

It is an insidious disorder, the longer it remains untreated the greater the likelihood of irreversable damage being done.

Patients who have been taking neuroleptics can be free of symptoms while on medication (due to masking) only to have the symptoms develop when medication is discontinued, and sometimes many months later.

As always, no matter what, never discontinue your medication without the intervention of a trained medical professional.

If you are suffering symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia please see a treating professional immediately to discuss your symptoms.

Tardive Dystonia: 'Tardive' meaning delayed 'Dys' meaning abnormal 'tonia' meaning muscle tone

Tardive Dystonia is a variant of Tardive Dyskinesia. It manifests generally as slow and sustained twisting movements of the neck, face, trunk or limbs. Again as in Tardive Dyskinesia the neck and face are most commonly affected.

Tardive Dystonia can cause extremely painful deformities of the neck. It can affect the orbital muscles of the eyes. It can produce painful, cramp-like spasms of a temporary or ongoing nature and cause damage to the skeletal systems and the joints due to excessive contraction of muscle groups.

If you are suffering symptoms of Tardive Dystonia please see a treating professional immediately to discuss your symptoms.


Try taking a brief rest period during the day. If you are tired because you are not able to sleep at night please consult your doctor about this. Your doctor may also be able to adjust your entire daily dosage of medication to bedtime if this has not already been done.


Tremors are a side effect of antipsychotic medications. If you have muscle trembling or shaking please consult your doctor.


If you have extreme difficulty urinating (passing water) please see your doctor immediately.

If your are urinating excessively and this is not caused by drinking excessive amounts of fluids please see your doctor.

Weight Gain:

Weight gain is a common side effect of some medications and in some cases the amount of weight gain is very significant.

To address the issue of weight gain you can increase exercise, develop a good diet (a dietician can help), and reduce overeating.

Patients who are overweight prior to treatment or who have weight related disorders such as hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) or hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) need to maintain regular checkups with their doctor and discuss the possibility of an alternative medication.

If you were not overweight prior to commencing medication and this is the only side effect you are suffering with your current medication it would be sensible to address exercise and diet issues prior to changing medication.

Remember, healthy eating and exercise is not only good for your waistline, it is excellent for your mental health and aids recovery.

Other Things That Can Interfere with Medications:


Consumption of grapefruit or grapefruit juice should be avoided. Grapefruit can dramatically interfere with the metabolism of your medication.

Are you a Smoker?

If you smoke, changes in your smoking habits can affect how your medication works. Nicotine from smoking affects the same receptors in your brain that many medications target. Nicotine can actively reduce the effect of many medications so if your smoking has increased since you were prescribed a dosage of medication you need to be aware that the medication may not be having the same effect as before.

Similarly, if you quit smoking after being prescribed a dosage of medication you may feel the effects of the medication much more because more of it is available to be absorbed in your body. You may be on too high a dosage given your current circumstances and need a review by your doctor.

Do you have Liver or Kidney Problems?

Liver function is important to absorption and metabolism of medication. Please make sure your doctor is aware of any medical condition you may suffer with your liver.

Kidney (Renal system) function is also important and poor function or infection can cause fever and different reactions which may be confused with your mental condition.

Renal impairment can reduce the clearance of medications by up to 50 percent, meaning you could have up to twice as much in your system.

Some medications may cause problems with your kidneys. Please advise your doctor if you have experienced problems with your kidneys in the past or if you are experiencing kidney problems since taking medication.

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Links to Sites with Information on Medication Side Effects

Australian Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin

Report Adverse Drug Reactions in Australia

Contribute to our Data Collection on Side Effects

Books on Medication Side Effects

Back to Main Medication Information Page


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