King's College London

Research portal

Experiences of taking neuroleptic medication and impacts on symptoms, sense of self and agency: a systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative data

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Jemima Thompson, Jacki L Stansfeld, Ruth E Cooper, Nicola Morant, Nadia E Crellin, Joanna Moncrieff

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-164
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number2
PublishedFeb 2020

King's Authors


PURPOSE: Neuroleptic (antipsychotic) drugs reduce psychotic symptoms, but how they achieve these effects and how the drugs' effects are experienced by people who take them are less well understood. The present study describes a synthesis of qualitative data about mental and behavioural alterations associated with taking neuroleptics and how these interact with symptoms of psychosis and people's sense of self and agency.

METHODS: Nine databases were searched to identify qualitative literature concerning experiences of taking neuroleptic medication. A thematic synthesis was conducted.

RESULTS: Neuroleptics were commonly experienced as producing a distinctive state of lethargy, cognitive slowing, emotional blunting and reduced motivation, which impaired functioning but also had beneficial effects on symptoms of psychosis and some other symptoms (e.g. insomnia). For some people, symptom reduction helped restore a sense of normality and autonomy, but others experienced a loss of important aspects of their personality. Across studies, many people adopted a passive stance towards long-term medication, expressing a sense of resignation, endurance or loss of autonomy.

CONCLUSIONS: Neuroleptic drugs modify cognition, emotions and motivation. These effects may be associated with reducing the intensity and impact of symptoms, but also affect people's sense of self and agency. Understanding how the effects of neuroleptics are experienced by those who take them is important in developing a more collaborative approach to drug treatment in psychosis and schizophrenia.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454