Akathisia: an updated review focusing on second-generation antipsychotics

J Clin Psychiatry. 2009 Apr 21;70(5):627-43. doi: 10.4088/JCP.08r04210.


Objective: To provide a brief description of the pathophysiology of akathisia, the challenges of diagnosing and treating this condition, and potential associated clinical issues. Also, to provide a review of the literature on the incidence of drug-induced akathisia associated with the use of second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) and first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs).

Data sources: English-language literature with no date restrictions cited in PubMed was searched for the keywords akathisia, placebo, neuroleptic, or haloperidol, and the generic names of SGAs (clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, ziprasidone, or aripiprazole).

Study selection: Limits were set to search clinical trials, meta-analyses, or randomized controlled trials reviewing data from adult schizophrenia or bipolar disorder clinical trials. Studies including SGA comparisons with placebo and with FGAs, and also between SGAs themselves, were selected. Studies that specifically assessed akathisia (either subjectively or objectively or both) were included. Studies reporting generalized results pertaining to extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) were excluded.

Data extraction: The incidence of akathisia, EPS rating scores, and required medications for the management of movement disorders were reviewed.

Data synthesis: Seventy-seven trials were included in the comparative review. Akathisia was observed with the use of all the SGAs. The akathisia incidence reported in bipolar disorder trials was generally higher compared with schizophrenia trials. The incidence reported for FGAs was consistently higher than that reported for SGAs, regardless of the patient population studied.

Conclusion: Akathisia remains a concern with the use of SGAs. More accurate and standardized evaluations are required for a better understanding of the nature and incidence of akathisia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Akathisia, Drug-Induced / etiology*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Humans


  • Antipsychotic Agents