Abilify (Aripiprazole): Uses, Side Effects, Dosage

Published on: 22 May 2023
Clinically Reviewed by Meaghan Rice PsyD., LPC

Abilify, or the generic form, aripiprazole, is an antipsychotic drug that treats symptoms of mental health disorders like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This medicine belongs to a class of drugs known as dopamine receptor agonists, a novel class of antipsychotics. Abilify can be taken orally or injected. There are some common Abilify side effects to caution for, including drowsiness, weight gain, dry mouth, constipation, and blurred vision.

If you received advice from a medical professional to try Abilify, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about it. If you are curious to see if this medication is right for you, Talkspace provides online psychiatrist appointments that can be accessed anywhere. Our licensed clinicians can help get you connected to Abilify online.

In this article, we’re answering all your questions, from what Abilify is used for to what are the common and severe side effects you should be aware of before starting it, to avoid an adverse reaction. 

What is Abilify?

Abilify is what’s known as an atypical antipsychotic medication. It’s approved to treat symptoms of mental health conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Abilify alters the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, which regulate moods and emotions. 

How does Abilify work?

Abilify helps regulate levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which are responsible for controlling emotions such as happiness, anger, sadness, and anxiety. Doing this helps reduce symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. It also helps improve overall functioning by enhancing concentration, reducing impulsivity, and assisting people to stay on task. 

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How does Abilify make you feel?

Most people who take Abilify report feeling calmer. Other common side effects include nausea, weight gain or loss, headache, or restlessness. When starting treatment, some may experience side effects, including drowsiness or dizziness. 

In addition to its calming effect on emotions, many people find that their ability to concentrate improves while taking Abilify, which can help them manage their day-to-day activities. If you’re curious about Abilify’s effects, you should talk to your doctor before starting treatment with this drug. 

Abilify Uses

Many people wonder what is Abilify used for? Abilify is an effective medication for various mental health conditions.  

“Abilify is indicated and approved for schizophrenia; return of manic and mixed episodes of bipolar; one disorder adjunct treatment for major depressive disorder; autistic disorder irritability symptoms; and Tourette’s disorder.”

Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir

Abilify for bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme shifts in mood — from manic highs to depressive lows. Abilify has been studied and shown to help stabilize bipolar mood swings by balancing out dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. In addition, when taken with other medications, Abilify can significantly reduce mania symptoms in more than just one medication alone.

Abilify for depression

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common mental health condition characterized by sadness, hopelessness, or suicidal thoughts that lasts for weeks or months. Abilify has effectively treated major depressive episodes, especially with antidepressant medications like SSRIs or SNRIs. One clinical trial found that people who took both an antidepressant plus Abilify experienced more significant improvements than those who only took an antidepressant alone.

Abilify for schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness marked by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and behavior problems such as aggression or agitation. Research shows that Abilify can be an effective treatment for schizophrenia. 

While more research is still needed, some studies suggest that combination therapy — adding Abilify to traditional antipsychotics — may help improve positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia like delusions, hallucinations, social withdrawal or lack of motivation. Taking both drugs together can also help reduce the risk of relapse compared to using either medication alone.

Abilify for Tourette syndrome and symptoms related to autism  

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements called tics. Tics may include facial grimacing, eye blinking, shoulder shrugging, vocalizations, and more. For some people with severe cases, research supports the clinical efficacy of low doses of Abilify and behavioral therapy to treat Tourette syndrome. 

Research also suggests that Abilify can be beneficial in reducing irritability associated with an autism spectrum disorder in children aged 6 – 17. It’s now FDA-approved, but due to its potential side effects, it should only be prescribed to pediatric patients after careful consideration between the doctor and the patient/caregiver.

Off-label uses

While it is commonly used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, there are several Abilify uses that are off-label, too. Off-label use means a drug is being used in a way not specified in its original FDA approval.  

Off-label use of drugs is legal when done under medical supervision and with informed consent from adult patients.

  • One off-label use of Abilify treats borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD is characterized by unstable moods, impulsive behavior, difficulty regulating emotions, and chaotic relationships with others.  
  • Abilify can also be used off-label to treat drug-induced hyperprolactinemia (DIH). DIH occurs when certain medications cause high levels of prolactin — a hormone involved in lactation — to be released into the bloodstream. Symptoms may include menstrual irregularities, infertility issues, headaches, fatigue, and breast enlargement/tenderness/discharge in men and women alike. This condition can be treated effectively with Abilify if other treatments have failed or caused adverse side effects.
  • Some physicians may prescribe Abilify off-label to help manage symptoms related to autism spectrum disorders, such as aggression or self-injury behaviors. This is due to its calming effect on neurotransmitters like dopamine, which can reduce agitation and improve focus in people with autism spectrum disorders. Further investigation must be conducted before any definitive conclusions about its efficacy can be drawn.

“Off-label use of this medication addresses some of the residual symptoms of some mood and anxiety disorders. Your psychiatrist would discuss with you the reason for adding that medication with your other prescriptions to address certain severe anxiety symptoms or not responding to ordinary medications.”

Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir

Pros & Cons of Abilify

Pros of Abilify
Once per day dosing
Cons of Abilify
Feelings of restlessness
Suitable for adults and childrenMight not be good if pregnant
Less likely to cause weight gain than other antipsychoticsMight not be safe if breastfeeding
Less sedation effectsCan cause serious side effects such as the increased risk of stroke
Less likely to change blood sugar/cholesterol levelsHas been linked to compulsive behaviors such as gambling addiction.

Side Effects of Abilify

The most common side effects associated with Abilify include nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, dizziness, and drowsiness. These symptoms usually disappear quickly as your body adjusts to the medication.

Additional potential side effects should be considered before starting treatment. 

  • Weight gain: Some people may experience Abilify weight gain as a side effect when taking this medication.. If you’re concerned about gaining weight while on Abilify, talk to your doctor about ways to manage it, such as diet and exercise changes or switching medications if necessary.
  • Restlessness/agitation: Restlessness or agitation is another possible side effect of taking Abilify, which can cause difficulty sleeping or feeling agitated throughout the day, even when not provoked by anything specific. If you experience restlessness while taking this medication, speak with your doctor immediately. Depending on your symptoms’ severity, they might adjust their dosage or switch medications altogether.
  • Tardive dyskinesia: Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a severe but rare neurological condition caused by long-term use of antipsychotics like Abilify. TD causes involuntary movements in various body parts such as facial grimacing and tongue thrusting, among other things. TD can be permanent, so if you notice any signs, contact your doctor immediately so they can adjust your treatment plan accordingly.
  • Sexual dysfunction: Sexual dysfunction, including decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, and orgasmic difficulties are all potential side effects of using Abilify. Speak with your doctor if any sexual issues arise during treatment, as alternative therapies may be available.
  • Dry mouth: Dry mouth is another common symptom experienced while taking Abilify. Dry mouth can lead to further complications including cavities and gum disease if left untreated. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help keep you hydrated, but you should speak with your healthcare provider about additional methods for managing dry mouth.

Abilify Dosage

Regarding dosage information, you should talk to your doctor for medical advice about what’s best, since everyone responds differently to medications. Generally speaking, Abilify is available in several forms, including tablets, orally disintegrating tablets (ODT), solution or liquid form, intramuscular injection (IM), and extended-release injectable suspension (XRIS). The most common doses range from 2 mg/day to 30 mg/day, depending on the treated condition.

  • For adults with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder: The recommended starting dose ranges from 10 mg/day to 15 mg/day. This may be increased to 30 mg daily based on individual response and tolerability. 
  • For children 6 years old or older with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder: The recommended starting dose is typically 2 mg daily. It can be increased gradually over time until symptoms improve. Depending on their needs, some children may require higher doses of up to 20 mg daily.
  • The IM injection form of Abilify should only be administered once every 2 weeks at an amount ranging from 25 mg – 75 mg, depending on patient weight and other factors. 
  • XRIS injections should only be administered once every 4 weeks at an initial dose of 150 mg, followed by 300 – 400 mg as needed based on individual response and tolerability levels.

How to Take Abilify

Take Abilify as directed by your doctor. Do not skip a dose. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember, but do not double up on doses. Abilify can be conveniently taken with or without food. 

If you take tablets, do not crush, split, or break them. Do not chew them. Swallow them whole. 

If you take liquid-form Abilify, measure it carefully and precisely. Use the dosing device provided by your pharmacy to ensure accurate dosing. 

Additional Considerations

Before beginning any new medication, interactions with other drugs and substances should always be discussed with a doctor or pharmacist. This is especially true here, as Abilify uses can interact negatively with certain medicines, including antidepressants, antifungals, antibiotics, heart rhythm medications, and more. In addition, some herbal supplements may also have negative interactions when taken alongside Abilify.


Several drugs can interact with Abilify. Do not take Abilify with other medications that can slow your breathing or make you drowsy. Be sure to tell your doctor what else you take so they can help you time your doses — some medications should not be taken at the same time as Abilify. 

Abilify can have a severe interaction with Wellbutrin (bupropion). Moderate interactions can occur with the following (and others, this list is not exhaustive) drugs:

  • Clonazepam
  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Gabapentin
  • Hydroxyzine
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)

Limit or avoid consumption of alcohol when taking Abilify. 


  • Dementia: People who take Abilify may experience an increased risk of death if they have dementia-related psychosis — Abilify is not approved for elderly populations with dementia-related psychosis. 
  • Health Condition Risks: Abilify might cause an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes or high blood sugar levels. Regular monitoring by a doctor is necessary while on the drug.
  • Impulsivity: Impulse-control issues and uncontrollable urges have also been linked to Abilify in studies
  • Pregnancy Safety: Pregnant or breastfeeding women should discuss safety concerns before using Abilify. There may be risks associated with fetal development during pregnancy and passing along active ingredients through breast milk while nursing an infant. 
  • Impairment: Drowsiness and impaired motor skills can also occur when taking this medication, so driving or operating heavy machinery is unsafe until you know how the drug affects you.

Most importantly, if you are taking Abilify, be cautious of stopping cold turkey. Abilify withdrawal symptoms can become severe. Make sure to talk to a doctor first before starting or stopping any new medication.

Abilify Alternatives

While it can effectively treat these disorders, some alternatives may work better.


Antidepressants are medications commonly prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. 

Common antidepressants include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

These medications can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers are a medication typically used to treat bipolar disorder. They can help reduce the intensity of manic episodes and stabilize mood swings between mania and depression. 

Commonly prescribed mood stabilizers include: 

  • Lithium carbonate
  • Valproic acid
  • Carbamazepine
  • Lamotrigine
  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Topiramate
  • Gabapentin enacarbil
  • Lurasidone hydrochloride

Atypical Antipsychotics

Atypical antipsychotics are a newer class of antipsychotic drugs with fewer side effects than traditional antipsychotics. They still provide similar efficacy in treating psychosis-related symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions. 

Examples of atypical antipsychotics include: 

  • Risperidone
  • Olanzapine
  • Quetiapine
  • Ziprasidone


Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” are another medication often prescribed for anxiety disorders or insomnia due to their sedative properties which help with relaxation and sleep onset latency issues. 

Some common benzodiazepines include:

  • Alprazolam 
  • Diazepam
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Clonazepam 
  • Lorazepam 
  • Temazepam 
  • Oxazepam

Online Abilify Prescription Through Talkspace Psychiatry

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, Abilify might be an excellent solution to consider. It can help manage symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, among other conditions. 

Our online psychiatry services can provide comprehensive treatment plans tailored to your needs. Our experienced and qualified team of mental health professionals is here to guide and support you in managing mental health conditions so you can live a healthier life. We also make telehealth and medication accessible if you have insurance coverage and affordable if you are worried about Abilify’s cost without insurance. Get connected with an online psychiatrist at Talkspace for help.


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Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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