Drugs & Supplements

Abilify: Common Side Effects & Its Role in Anxiety and Depression

side effect of abilify

The information in this article is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All images and text present are for general information purpose only.

Abilify, also known by its generic name aripiprazole, is a medication commonly prescribed for various psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. Like any medication, Abilify is associated with a range of side effects, some of which are more prevalent than others.

In this article, we dive into the most common side effects of Abilify, discuss its generic version, and explore its usage in managing anxiety and depression.

What is Abilify or Aripiprazole?

Abilify belongs to a class of medications known as atypical antipsychotics. It works by influencing the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically dopamine and serotonin. This modulation of neurotransmitters is believed to contribute to its therapeutic effects across various psychiatric disorders.

Aripiprazole is the generic name for Abilify, and it is bio-equivalent to the brand-name medication. Generic medications are identical in terms of active ingredients, dosage, strength, and intended use. They are typically more cost-effective than their brand-name counterparts.

Uses of Abilify

The drug is usually prescribed for the following issues:

  • Manic and mixed episodes of bipolar I disorder in some children and adults
  • Schizophrenia in some children and adults
  • Major depressive disorder or depression in adults. The drug is used as a combination drug with other depression medications.

Most Common Side Effects of Abilify

While Abilify is generally well-tolerated, it is essential to be aware of potential side effects. The most common side effects include:

– Nausea: Some individuals may experience nausea, especially when initiating treatment. Taking Abilify with food may help alleviate this symptom.

– Insomnia or Sedation: Sleep-related issues, including both insomnia and sedation, can occur. The timing of medication administration may influence whether it promotes wakefulness or has a sedative effect.

– Weight Gain: A common concern with many antipsychotic medications, Abilify can lead to weight gain. Monitoring dietary habits and incorporating regular exercise may help manage this side effect.

– Restlessness (Akathisia): Some individuals may experience restlessness or a sense of inner tension. Adjusting the dosage or considering adjunct medications can be explored to address akathisia.

– Extrapyramidal Symptoms (EPS): EPS, including tremors, stiffness, and involuntary movements, may occur. These symptoms can be distressing but are typically reversible upon dosage adjustment or discontinuation.

– Dizziness: Changes in body position may result in dizziness, especially during the initial phases of treatment. Rising slowly from a sitting or lying position can help minimize this side effect.

Abilify for Anxiety

Abilify is sometimes prescribed off-label for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Its mechanism of action, influencing both dopamine and serotonin receptors, is thought to contribute to its anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects. However, the use of Abilify for anxiety is not FDA-approved, and healthcare providers may carefully consider the risks and benefits before prescribing it for this purpose.

– Adjunct Treatment: Abilify is more commonly used as an adjunctive treatment, meaning it is added to an existing regimen rather than being the primary intervention. This approach may enhance the effectiveness of other anxiety medications.

– Individualized Approach: The decision to use Abilify for anxiety is often based on the individual’s specific symptoms, treatment history, and response to other interventions. Regular monitoring is essential to assess its impact and manage potential side effects.

Abilify for Depression

Abilify is FDA-approved as an adjunctive treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD). It is often prescribed alongside antidepressant medications to enhance their efficacy. Key considerations regarding Abilify’s role in depression include:

– Combination Therapy: Abilify is commonly used in combination with an antidepressant to address depressive symptoms that may not adequately respond to antidepressant monotherapy.

– Dopamine System Modulation: Abilify’s partial agonist activity at dopamine receptors is believed to contribute to its antidepressant effects. This modulation may help regulate mood and improve overall treatment outcomes.

– Dosage and Monitoring: The dosage of Abilify for depression is typically lower than that used for other psychiatric conditions. Regular monitoring is essential to assess both the therapeutic response and the emergence of side effects.

Managing Side Effects and Individualized Care

Managing side effects involves a collaborative approach between the individual and their healthcare provider. Strategies for navigating Abilify side effects include:

– Open Communication: Regular communication about side effects and their impact on daily life is crucial. This allows for timely adjustments to the treatment plan.

– Dosage Adjustments: Modifying the dosage, either by titrating up or down, can help manage side effects while maintaining therapeutic benefits.

– Lifestyle Modifications: Lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise, and sleep hygiene, play a role in mitigating side effects. Making positive lifestyle changes can contribute to overall well-being.

Navigating the terrain of psychiatric medications requires a holistic and individualized approach. Regular communication with healthcare providers, adherence to treatment plans, and a proactive stance in managing side effects contribute to a more effective and well-tolerated treatment experience.

 Are the side effects of Abilify serious?

The side effects of Abilify can be severe depending on the extent of its use and the time in which you have been able to recognize and flag the side effects. The side effects that qualify as “serious” or “severe” are:

  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior in young adults. As the drug comes with a boxed warning, it is important to note that drugs with boxed warnings should be taken with extra care.
  • The boxed warning emphasizes that older adults can experience psychosis that is related to dementia.  


Abilify, both in its brand and generic form (aripiprazole), plays a significant role in the management of various psychiatric conditions. While it offers therapeutic benefits, it is crucial to be aware of potential side effects, with a focus on the most common ones such as nausea, sleep-related issues, weight gain, restlessness, and dizziness.

The usage of Abilify for anxiety and depression involves careful consideration, and healthcare providers tailor treatment plans based on individual needs. As with any medication, the decision to use Abilify should be made collaboratively, weighing the potential benefits against the risks and considering the unique circumstances of the individual.

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Harsha Sharma
Harsha is a senior content writer with numerous hobbies who takes great pride in spreading kindness. Earning a Postgraduate degree in Microbiology, she invests her time reading and informing people about various topics, particularly health and lifestyle. She believes in continuous learning, with life as her inspiration, and opines that experiences enrich our lives.

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