Abilify’s Side Effects: What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Amber R. Watson, PharmD
This drug has a boxed warning about increased risk of death when used in older adults with dementia-related psychosis. (Psychosis is a mental health condition that causes hallucinations, delusions, and other disorganized thoughts or behaviors.) It also has a boxed warning about increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children and adults ages 24 years or younger. These are serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For details, see the “ Abilify: Side effects explained” section below.

Abilify: Introduction

Abilify is a brand-name prescription drug. It’s a type of medication called an atypical antipsychotic, and it contains the active drug aripiprazole. It comes as a tablet that you take by mouth.

Abilify is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the following conditions:

In adults schizophrenia
bipolar disorder
depression
In children ages 6 years and older • irritability associated with autism spectrum disorder
Tourette syndrome
In children ages 10 years and older • bipolar disorder
In children ages 13 years and older • schizophrenia

Similar to other drugs, Abilify may cause side effects. Read below for information about possible side effects of Abilify, including common, mild, and serious ones.

For a general overview of Abilify, including details about its uses, see this article.

If you’d like to take Abilify, search here to find a healthcare professional who might prescribe it.

Abilify: More common side effects

Some of Abilify’s side effects may be more common than others. These side effects may last only a few days to weeks. However, some side effects may last longer or become severe or bothersome. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns about any side effects with Abilify.

In Abilify’s clinical studies, these were some side effects that occurred more often:

Abilify: Mild side effects

Abilify can cause mild side effects, which are listed below. However, this list doesn’t include all possible mild side effects. To learn more about Abilify’s side effects, view the drug’s prescribing information.

Abilify’s mild side effects include:

The side effects listed above may last only a few days to weeks. However, some side effects may last longer or become severe or bothersome. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns about side effects with Abilify.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you develop a side effect while taking Abilify and want to tell the FDA about it, visit MedWatch.

* For more information about this side effect, see “Abilify: Side effects explained” below.

Abilify: Serious side effects

It’s possible to have serious side effects with Abilify. Serious side effects are listed below, but this list may not include all possibilities. To learn more about Abilify’s side effects, view the drug’s prescribing information.

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects with Abilify. However, if you think you’re having a medical emergency or have life threatening side effects, call 911 or your local emergency number.

Serious side effects of Abilify and their possible symptoms include:

  • Problems with metabolism, including type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. Symptoms can include:
    • feeling very thirsty or hungry
    • needing to urinate more frequently than usual
    • confusion
    • weakness
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (a serious reaction to certain drugs used to treat mental conditions). Symptoms can include:
    • stiff muscles
    • fever above 100.4°F (38°C)
    • excessive sweating
    • confusion
  • Unusual urges and compulsive behaviors. Symptoms can include:
    • compulsive gambling
    • overeating
    • sexual urges
    • excessive or compulsive shopping
    • other new urges or compulsive behaviors
  • Orthostatic hypotension (a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing or rising). Symptoms can include:
    • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
    • fainting
  • Problems with body temperature control. Symptoms can include:
    • excessive sweating
    • feeling very hot while exercising or while in the sun
  • Seizures. Symptoms can include:
    • twitching, uncontrolled muscle spasms, or convulsions
    • changes in smell or taste
    • loss of consciousness
    • rapid blinking
  • Low white blood cell level, which may not cause symptoms but can be detected with a blood test. If symptoms do occur, they can include:
    • frequent infections
    • fever
  • Difficulty swallowing, which can cause food or liquid to reach your lungs.
  • Falls, which can lead to broken bones and other injuries.
  • Impaired coordination and ability to think, which can lead to accidents or injury.
  • Risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.*
  • Risk of death in certain older people.*
  • Tardive dyskinesia.†
  • Allergic reaction.†

* Abilify has a boxed warning for this side effect. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see the “Abilify: Side effects explained” section below.
† For more information about this side effect, see “Abilify: Side effects explained” below.

Abilify: Side effects in children

Abilify is approved for use in children with the following conditions.

In children ages 6 years and older • irritability associated with autism spectrum disorder
Tourette syndrome
In children ages 10 years and older bipolar disorder
In children ages 13 years and older schizophrenia

Some different mild side effects were reported in children during the drug’s clinical studies. The most common side effects of Abilify in children included:

Serious side effects of Abilify aren’t expected to differ between children and adults. That said, the drug does have a boxed warning about the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children and adults ages 24 years or younger. To learn more, see “Abilify: Side effects explained” just below.

Abilify: Side effects explained

Here’s detailed information about some of Abilify’s side effects.

Risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Abilify has a boxed warning about the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. A boxed warning is the most serious warning about a drug from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Clinical studies show that antidepressants, including Abilify, may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in adults and children ages 24 years or younger. Some antipsychotic medications, including Abilify, are also considered antidepressants.

Abilify may be used with other drugs to treat depression in adults. It’s not approved for this use in children. However, all people, regardless of age, should be monitored for mental health changes while taking drugs like Abilify.

Possible symptoms of suicidal thoughts or behaviors include:

What to do

Watch for changes in your behaviors and thoughts while taking Abilify. Ask people close to you to watch for any changes in your mood or behaviors as well. Parents and caregivers of children taking Abilify should watch for changes in the child.

If you notice any changes, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are life threatening, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide

Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Risk of death in certain older people

Abilify has a boxed warning about the risk of death in certain older people. A boxed warning is the most serious warning about a drug from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Adults ages 65 years and older who have psychosis associated with dementia have an increased risk of death with antipsychotic medications. (Psychosis is a mental health condition that causes hallucinations, delusions, and other disorganized thoughts or behaviors.)

Abilify is considered an antipsychotic drug, so it carries this risk. These medications should not be used to treat psychosis related to dementia in older adults.

In clinical studies, older adults using Abilify to treat dementia-related psychosis had a higher risk of stroke, including fatal stroke. Possible symptoms of stroke can include:

  • headache
  • confusion
  • weakness on one side of your body, usually in your face, arm, or leg

What to do

Abilify should not be used to treat psychosis related to dementia. It’s not approved by the FDA for this use. Doctors will consider other medications to treat this condition instead.

If stroke symptoms occur while taking Abilify, call 911 or your local emergency number right away.

Weight gain

Abilify may cause weight gain. This is a known side effect of all antipsychotic medications, including Abilify. To find out how often weight gain occurred in clinical studies, see Abilify’s prescribing information.

In clinical studies, Abilify caused more weight gain when used to treat depression compared with its other uses. However, for depression, Abilify is prescribed with other antidepressant medications. These medications may also cause weight gain.

Some people who took Abilify to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder actually had weight loss. However, other people experienced weight gain when taking Abilify for these uses.

On average, children who took Abilify for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder gained more weight compared with adults.

What to do

Your doctor will monitor your weight during treatment with Abilify. They’ll also tell you whether you should monitor your weight at home.

If you have concerns about your weight while taking Abilify, talk with your doctor. They can recommend ways to manage a body weight that is healthy for you.

Sexual side effects

Rarely, Abilify can cause sexual side effects. To find out how often these side effects occurred in clinical studies, see Abilify’s prescribing information.

Examples of sexual side effects may include:

  • changes in libido (sex drive)
  • erectile dysfunction (trouble having or keeping an erection)
  • priapism (prolonged, painful erection)
  • compulsive sexual behaviors or urges

Clinical studies did not specify any difference in sexual side effects between males and females.*

* Sex and gender exist on spectrums. In this article, use of the terms “male” and “female” refers to sex assigned at birth.

What to do

Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about sexual side effects and Abilify. They can discuss possible treatments depending on the specific side effect you’re experiencing. If you have compulsive sexual urges or behaviors, your doctor will likely recommend that you stop taking Abilify.

If you think you’re experiencing priapism, call 911 or your local emergency number. Without treatment, this side effect can cause permanent tissue damage. It requires immediate treatment, possibly at a hospital.

Tardive dyskinesia

In clinical studies, tardive dyskinesia (TD) rarely occurred in people taking Abilify. However, TD is a serious and sometimes irreversible side effect. To find out more about how often TD occurred in clinical studies, see Abilify’s prescribing information.

With TD, you have involuntary movements, primarily in your face and mouth. These may include smacking your lips, thrusting your tongue, and grimacing. However, TD can also cause involuntary movements in other parts of your body, such as your arms or legs.

This side effect may be caused by certain medications used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and certain gastrointestinal problems. These medications include Abilify.

Females* ages 65 years and older are believed to have a higher risk of this side effect. However, this side effect can affect anyone taking Abilify. Also, TD can occur at any time while you’re taking Abilify. However, your risk may be higher the longer you take the medication.

Note that TD may or may not go away, even after you stop taking Abilify.

* Sex and gender exist on spectrums. In this article, use of the term “female” refers to sex assigned at birth.

What to do

Tell your doctor immediately if you notice symptoms of tardive dyskinesia while taking Abilify. They may have you stop taking Abilify. However, keep in mind that symptoms of TD may continue even after you stop taking Abilify. At this time, there isn’t a known cure for TD. There are medications, such as valbenazine (Ingrezza), that may help reduce TD symptoms.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Abilify. A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Allergic reactions weren’t common in Abilify’s clinical studies.

Possible symptoms of mild and serious allergic reactions are listed in the table below.

Mild allergic reaction symptoms Serious allergic reaction symptoms
• itching trouble breathing
rash • swelling in your throat or mouth
flushing • swelling under your skin, possibly in your hands, feet, lips, or eyelids

If you have an allergic reaction to Abilify, call your doctor right away. This is important to do because the reaction could become severe.

However, if you’re having a medical emergency or your symptoms feel life threatening, call 911 or a local emergency number.

Abilify: Common questions about side effects

Here are some common questions about the drug’s side effects and answers to them. Talk with your doctor if you have other questions about this drug.

Do side effects of Abilify go away?

Many of Abilify’s side effects are temporary and go away within a few days of starting or stopping the drug. For example, digestive side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and constipation may go away on their own. If not, your doctor or pharmacist may recommend taking an over-the-counter medication, such as polyethylene glycol 3350 (MiraLAX).

However, the drug can cause some long-lasting side effects. These may include tardive dyskinesia or type 2 diabetes. See the “Are there long-term side effects of Abilify” question below to learn more.

Are side effects of Abilify tablets different from side effects of Abilify injections?

For the most part, no. Side effects of Abilify tablets are similar to side effects of Abilify injections.

However, there were mild injection site reactions, such as bruising, reported with Abilify injections. These are expected side effects with most injected medications, including Abilify. Abilify tablets won’t cause injection site reactions.

It’s important to note that Abilify injections are no longer available. However, a different form of Abilify, called Abilify Maintena, is available as an injection. For details about the drug’s side effects, see Abilify Maintena’s prescribing information.

If you have questions about side effects of Abilify injection, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Are there long-term side effects of Abilify?

Yes, Abilify can cause long-term side effects.

Long-term side effects may start during treatment and continue for a long time, possibly after stopping treatment. These side effects may also start after you’ve taken the drug for a long time or after you’ve ended treatment.

Examples of long-term side effects reported with Abilify include tardive dyskinesia,* or unusual urges and compulsive behaviors. These side effects may or may not go away once Abilify is stopped.

Other long-term side effects include metabolic changes, such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. These conditions can be treated using medications, such as dapagliflozin (Farxiga) or atorvastatin (Lipitor). Other treatments include lifestyle changes, such as having healthy diet and exercise habits.

If you have concerns about long-term side effects of Abilify, talk with your doctor and pharmacist.

* To learn more about this side effect, see “Abilify: Side effects explained” above.

Abilify: Precautions

There are certain precautions to consider before you begin treatment with Abilify. These include two boxed warnings.

Boxed warnings

This drug has a boxed warning about increased risk of death when used in older adults with dementia-related psychosis. (Psychosis is a mental health condition that causes hallucinations, delusions, and other disorganized thoughts or behaviors.) It also has a boxed warning about increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children and adults ages 24 years or younger. These are serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

For details, see the “Abilify: Side effects explained” section above.

Other precautions

Be sure to talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Abilify. This drug may not be the right treatment option for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health.

The conditions and factors to consider include those described below.

Diabetes. Treatment with Abilify can cause high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, taking Abilify could worsen your condition. If your doctor decides to prescribe Abilify for you, they may change how often you monitor your blood sugar levels. They may also make changes to your diabetes medications. This may include increasing the dose of your current diabetes medications or prescribing additional medications to lower your blood sugar.

Seizures. In rare cases, Abilify can cause seizures as a side effect. If you already have or have had seizures, you may be at a higher risk of seizures if you take Abilify. Your doctor can recommend whether Abilify is safe for you.

Heart problems, including blood pressure problems. Abilify can cause changes in your blood pressure, including orthostatic hypotension (sudden blood pressure drop when you stand or rise). Orthostatic hypotension can lead to falls, which may cause broken bones or other severe injuries. Abilify can also cause changes to your heart rhythm. If you have existing heart problems, including blood pressure problems, taking Abilify may worsen your condition. You may also have a higher risk of orthostatic hypotension as a side effect. Your doctor can help determine whether it’s safe for you to take Abilify.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Abilify or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Abilify. Ask your doctor what other medications may be better options for you.

Consuming alcohol during Abilify treatment

There’s no known interaction between drinking alcohol and taking Abilify.

However, alcohol can cause some of the same side effects as Abilify, including nausea, vomiting, and headache. So, drinking alcohol while taking Abilify may increase your risk for certain side effects.

It’s also important to note that alcohol may worsen symptoms of some conditions Abilify is used to treat, including:

If you consume alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much is safe for you to drink while you’re taking Abilify.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding during Abilify treatment

It may not be safe to take Abilify while pregnant or breastfeeding. See below for details about taking the drug during these times.

Pregnancy and Abilify

It’s not known whether it’s safe to take Abilify during pregnancy. The drug has been reported to cause some issues in newborns if used during the third trimester (28 to 40 weeks). These include:

  • withdrawal symptoms,* including agitation, sleepiness, and difficulty feeding
  • extrapyramidal symptoms, including muscle tremors

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor. They can discuss the risks of taking Abilify during pregnancy.

* Withdrawal symptoms are side effects that can happen after you stop taking a drug that your body is dependent on.

Pregnancy registry

If you decide to use Abilify, consider joining the pregnancy registry available for people who take drugs such as Abilify while pregnant. Pregnancy registries help gather information about the use of medications during pregnancy.

Breastfeeding and Abilify

Abilify is present in human breast milk. And there are reports of the drug affecting the body’s ability to make breast milk. Additionally, it may cause poor weight gain in children exposed to the drug through breast milk.

If you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor. They can recommend healthy ways to feed your child while you’re taking Abilify.

Abilify: What to discuss with your doctor

Mild side effects can occur with Abilify, but most of them aren’t common. Mild side effects caused by Abilify, such as nausea and constipation, often go away within a few days of starting or stopping the drug.

Abilify can also cause serious side effects. However, these weren’t common in the drug’s clinical studies.

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to find out more information about Abilify. If you have questions about the drug’s side effects, your pharmacist or healthcare professional can help answer them for you.

In addition to discussing Abilify with your doctor, you may find the following articles helpful in learning more.

  • Overview of Abilify. To read an overview of Abilify, see this article.
  • Drug comparison. To learn how Abilify compares with Latuda, read this article.
  • Details about schizophrenia. To learn more about schizophrenia, which Abilify is used to treat, see this article.

Disclaimer: Healthgrades has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

Medical Reviewer: Amber R. Watson, PharmD
Last Review Date: 2022 May 17
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.