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Abilify (A complete guide)

Abilify, generic name aripiprazole, is a medication used to treat mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Tourette’s syndrome.

It can also be used in combination with other medications to treat depression.  

In this article, you will learn what Abilify is used to treat, how it works, common side effects, and other important information regarding usage. 

Mental disorders are debilitating and can greatly impede upon one’s ability to function in daily life.

Fortunately, there are many approved treatments that help alleviate symptoms associated with these disorders.

Abilify, or aripiprazole, is one of the most commonly used drugs to treat several mental illnesses. 

What is Abilify?

Abilify (generic name aripiprazole) is a medication used to treat mental disorders including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, and irritability associated with autism spectrum disorder.

It is also used in combination with other medications to treat depression. 

Abilify is part of the atypical antipsychotic class of drugs.

It can decrease hallucinations, improve concentration, and help “defog” the brain.

This medication can also help you think more clearly and positive about yourself, reduce nervousness, and can reduce the severity and frequency of mood swings. 

Who should take Abilify?

People who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, or depression may be prescribed Abilify. 

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels, and severely interferes with everyday life. 

Symptoms of bipolar disorder include both manic and depressive episodes. Signs of a manic episode are: 

·      Feeling very “up” or elated

·      Increased energy and activity levels

·      Feeling jumpy or wired 

·      Trouble sleeping (insomnia)

·      Talking very fast about a lot of different things

·      Agitation or irritability

·      Thoughts racing 

·      Think they can do a lot of things at once 

·      Taking risks such as spending a lot of money or having reckless sex 

The following are symptoms of a depressive episode: 

·      Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness 

·      Very low energy and activity levels 

·      Trouble sleeping (either sleeping too much or too little) 

·      Loss of enjoyment in hobbies or activities

·      Feelings of worry 

·      Trouble concentrating and trouble remembering things 

·      Changes in appetite (either eating too much or too little)

·      Feeling sluggish 

·      Thoughts of death or suicide

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, seek help immediately. 

There are two main types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder. 

Bipolar I Disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or severe manic symptoms that require immediate hospitalization.

Depressive episodes occur as well and usually last at least 2 weeks.

Bipolar I Disorder patients may also have mixed episodes with both manic and depressive symptoms simultaneously. 

Bipolar II Disorder is characterized by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes.

Hypomanic episodes have some features of typical manic episodes, but are not severe enough to be considered manic. 

People who are diagnosed with schizophrenia may also be treated with Abilify. Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder characterized by abnormal perception of reality.

Symptoms involve hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking and behavior that hinders one’s ability to function in daily life. 

Doctors may also prescribe Abilify to patients with Tourette’s syndrome.

Tourette’s syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that causes people to make involuntary movements or sounds, also called tics.

Some people with Tourette’s might blink repeatedly or may blurt out words uncontrollably.  

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a mood disorder that causes feelings of worthlessness and loss of interest in daily activities.

Common symptoms of MDD are as follows: 

·      Chronic feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness

·      Loss of interest in activities that once used to bring enjoyment (i.e., sex, hobbies) 

·      Outbursts of anger 

·      Irritability

·      Frustration

·      Issues with sleeping too much or insomnia

·      Lack of energy and fatigue 

·      Changes in eating patterns and weight (i.e., increased appetite and weight gain or reduced appetite and weight loss)

·      Anxiety

·      Agitation

·      Restlessness

·      Slowed speaking, thinking, and movement 

·      Feelings of worthlessness 

·      Ruminating on past failures

·      Feelings of guilt 

·      Trouble concentrating, making proper decisions, and remembering things 

·      Physical problems such as back pain or headaches that cannot be explained by another medical condition 

To get more insight into depression, click here. 

How does Abilify work? 

It is unknown how exactly Abilify works to relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, depression, and irritability associated with autism spectrum disorder.

However, experts believe that it mimics the activity of dopamine and serotonin, which are two of the brain’s major neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain that relay information from one neuron to the next to regulate all of our behaviors.

Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters heavily involved in the reward center of the brain, and serotonin is a master regulator of sleep, appetite, and mood.

Deficits in the dopamine system have also been implicated in psychotic and movement disorders.

What are the common side effects of Abilify?

There are many side effects that may occur with Abilify.

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms: 

·      Dizziness

·      Lightheadedness

·      Drowsiness

·      Gastrointestinal problems (i.e., nausea, vomiting, or constipation)

·      Excessive tiredness

·      Excess saliva or drooling

·      Blurry vision

·      Weight gain

·      Headache

·      Trouble sleeping 

If you experience any of the following more serious side effects from Abilify, notify your doctor immediately and seek emergency medical care: 

·      Fainting

·      Changes in mood or mental state (i.e., increased anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide)

·      Difficulty swallowing

·      Shaking or tremor

·      Restlessness in limbs, usually the legs

·      Muscle spasms

·      Mask-like facial expression 

·      Seizures

·      Trouble controlling addictive urges such as gambling, sex, eating or shopping

·      Breathing interruptions during sleep 

What is other important information I should know about taking Abilify? 

A rare and potentially fatal condition known as neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) has been reported with Abilify.

This disease causes muscle rigidity, hyperpyrexia (extremely high fever), fast heartbeat (tachycardia), diaphoresis (excessive sweating), irregular pulse or blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms (cardiac dysrhythmia), and altered mental status. 

Long-term treatment with Abilify and other atypical antipsychotics can lead to the development of tardive dyskinesia (TD).

TD is a movement disorder that is characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements which usually include eye blinking, grimacing, or lip smacking.

This syndrome may be reversible if treatment with the antipsychotic is ceased. 

If you are taking Abilify, it is imperative that your doctor monitors your weight and blood sugar consistently.

Patients taking Abilify or other atypical antipsychotics have developed hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition where the body breaks down fat extremely fast into molecules called ketones, which in turn make the blood acidic.

In some cases, coma or death have been reported. 

Orthostatic hypotension is associated with Abilify. This is a condition where blood pressure drops upon standing. 

Abilify has been associated with leukopenia, neutropenia, and agranulocytosis.

These terms indicate a problem with the white blood cells of the immune system.

Patients with a history of clinically significant low white blood cell (WBC) count or drug-induced leukopenia/neutropenia should have their complete blood count (CBC) monitored frequently in the beginning of Abilify therapy.

Abilify treatment should be discontinued immediately upon the first sign of a clinically significant decrease in WBC count in the absence of other potential causative factors. 

Abilify should be used with caution in patients with a history of seizures or with conditions that lower the seizure threshold (i.e., dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease). 

Elderly patients should proceed with caution before taking Abilify.

Increased incidence of stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIA) have been reported in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis who were taking Abilify. 

It is important to avoid alcohol while taking Abilify. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Abilify: 

1.   Is Abilify a mood stabilizer?

Abilify, or aripiprazole, can treat the acute manic episodes of bipolar disorder in adults, adolescents, and children.

It is not useful, however, for the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder.

Thus, Abilify is usually used in conjunction with mood stabilizers. 

2.   What is Abilify used for?

Abilify, or aripiprazole, is an antipsychotic medication used to treat the symptoms of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder (manic and depressive episodes). 

3.   What is the most common side effect of Abilify?

The most common side effects of Abilify are nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia, uncontrolled movements (akathisia) and restlessness. 

4.   Is Abilify dangerous?

Abilify has been the subject of several law suits because it has allegedly caused deadly side effects and compulsive behaviors such as gambling. 

5.   Does Abilify affect you sexually?

Abilify can cause erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive, difficulty getting aroused, ejaculatory dysfunction, and delays or decreased ability to orgasm. 

6.   Does Abilify help with anxiety?

It has been shown in clinical studies that Abilify can be an effective treatment for bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, treatment-resistant depression, and maybe anxiety disorders.

7.   How long does it take for Abilify to kick in?

It usually takes about 4-6 weeks for Abilify to start to take its full effect. 

8.   Does Abilify cause fatigue?

Fatigue is one of the common side effects of Abilify.

The most common side effects of Abilify are nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia, uncontrolled movements (akathisia) and restlessness. 

9.   Is Abilify good for ADHD?

Atypical antipsychotics including Abilify have been shown to improve cognitive function that has been altered due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

10.  What happens if you stop Abilify abruptly?

ou should not stop taking Abilify without talking to your doctor.

If Abilify is discontinued “cold-turkey”, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia.

Want to learn more about Abilify? Try these books!

ABILIFY (Aripiprazole): Treatments of Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Schizophrenia, and Irritability associated with Autism

This book by James Lee Anderson provides information about Abilify in paperback form.

It discusses what Abilify is prescribed for, how it works, and how it should be taken.  

Understanding Abilify (aripiprazole): An Easy-to-Read Guide to Uses, Side Effects, Withdrawal, and More

Thomas Hager explains the ins and outs of Abilify, including its benefits and dangers.

This book also goes into detail about the scientific facts of this profitable and widely used drug.

It also delves into the drug’s history, the billion-dollar lawsuits, what can go wrong, and why it is such a controversial medication. 

I am not in recovery. I am in discovery: Journaling my mental illness

Journaling is a great way to help process and keep track of your experiences and feelings while you are going through the life-altering symptoms of a mental disorder including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, or irritability associated with autism spectrum disorder.

This journal contains 94 daily templates to aid in your discovery process. 

This blog article should have given you a thorough overview on what Abilify is prescribed for and how it works to treat mental disorders including depression bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, and irritability associated with autism spectrum disorder.

This article also discussed the precautions regarding treatment with Abilify. 

More questions or comments about Abilify? Post below!

References

Abilify.WedMD. 2019. 

Abilify.FDA.gov. January 2014. 

Bipolar Disorder.National Institute of Mental Health. April 2016. 

Schizophrenia.Mayo Clinic. April 10th, 2018. 

Tourette’s Syndrome.WebMD. 2019. 

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