Psychotic Disorders

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Schizophrenia Slideshow Pictures

What are potential complications of medications used to treat psychotic disorders?

Many symptoms found in psychotic individuals are related to movement (motor symptoms). Some of these can be side effects of prescribed medications. Medication side effects may, for example, include dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, stiffness on one side of the neck or jaw, restlessness, tremors of the hands and feet, and slurred speech.

Tardive dyskinesia is one of the most serious, although quite uncommon, side effects of medications used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. It is usually seen in older people and involves facial twitching, jerking, and twisting of the limbs or trunk of the body, or both. It is a less common side effect with the newer generation of medications used to treat schizophrenia. It does not always go away, even when the medicine that caused it is discontinued.

A rare but life-threatening complication resulting from the use of neuroleptic (antipsychotic, tranquilizing) medications is neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS). It involves extreme muscle rigidity, sweatiness, salivation, and fever. If this complication is suspected, it should be treated as an emergency.

Other potential complications of antipsychotic medications include significant weight gain and sleepiness, depending on the medication. To address weight gain, prescribing physicians often counsel their patients with a psychotic disorder on nutrition and exercise. Dose and timing adjustments may alleviate sleepiness. For pregnant women, the potential risks of the medication to a developing fetus must be balanced with the potential benefit to the mother and fetus of treating the illness.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2016

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