The Assessment and Treatment of Antipsychotic-Induced Akathisia

Tamara Pringsheim*, David Gardner, Donald Addington, Davide Martino, Francesca Morgante, Lucia Ricciardi, Norman Poole, Gary Remington, Mark Edwards, Alan Carson, Thomas R.E. Barnes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Akathisia is a common and distressing neuropsychiatric syndrome associated with antipsychotic medication, characterised by subjective and objective psychomotor restlessness. The goal of this guideline is to provide clinicians with recommendations on the assessment and treatment of akathisia. Methods: We performed a systematic review of therapeutic studies assessing the treatment of antipsychotic-induced extrapyramidal symptoms. Forty studies on akathisia and 4 systematic reviews evaluating the adverse effects of antipsychotics were used in the formulation of recommendations. Studies were rated for methodological quality using the American Academy of Neurology Risk of Bias Classification system. The overall level of evidence classifications and grades of recommendation were made using the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network framework. Results: As a good practice point, clinicians should systematically assess akathisia with a validated scale before starting antipsychotics and during antipsychotic dosage titration. For the management of akathisia, there was adequate evidence to allow recommendations regarding antipsychotic dose reduction, antipsychotic polypharmacy, switching antipsychotic medication, and the use of adjuvant medications including beta-blockers, anticholinergics, 5HT 2A antagonists, benzodiazepines, and vitamin B6. Conclusion: The treatment of antipsychotic-induced akathisia should be personalised, with consideration of antipsychotic dose reduction, cessation of antipsychotic polypharmacy, and switching to an antipsychotic with a perceived lower liability for akathisia, before the use of adjuvant medications. The choice of adjuvant medications should favour the more established treatments, with careful consideration of contraindications and side effects. Limitations in the evidence should be acknowledged and prompt cautious prescribing, particularly with respect to the duration of use of adjuvant medications, is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-729
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • antipsychotics
  • evidence-based medicine
  • extrapyramidal syndromes


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