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The functioning of antipsychotics is the subject of this blog. I’d like to share some recent insights and developments occuring.

In the coming period I am going to take you on a journey into the world of psychiatry through a series of blogs. So stay tuned in case you’re interested.


For many people, these medications are an important part of their treatment, but there are still a lot of grey areas in relation to them. There’s a lot of misconceptions about them as well.

Today we start with an important topic: do antipsychotics actually always work? And what does it mean when they ‘work’?

The functioning of antipsychotics

It may sound simple: if antipsychotics reduce your symptoms, they work. Easy right?  Well, not entirely. Because even though diminishing symptoms is of course important, it doesn’t tell you the whole story. What if the medication reduces your symptoms, but at the same time makes you feel so drowsy you can barely get out of bed? Or that the medication makes you so indifferent that you barely take an interest in the people around you? Or, even worse, that you start smoking more to compensate for feeling so apathetic?

Fighting symptoms

What I am trying to say, is that improving your symptoms is one thing. But leading a meaningful life, in which you have social contacts and do things that you enjoy, is at least as important.

Unfortunately, within the GGZ (GGZ is the body that represents mental healthcare providers in the Netherlands) but also outside of the Netherlands  people don’t always look at this broader impact of antipsychotics. Sometimes it is just assumed that these medications ‘are always effective’. But research shows that for 20 to 40% of the patients the antipsychotics either don’t, or barely work. However, this group is often prescribed these medications regardless, even though they don’t contribute to their well-being and often have serious side effects.

This is a persistent phenomenon we don’t pay enough attention to.

The functioning of antipsychotics: a turning point

Fortunately, a turning point is starting to appear. Psychiatrists are becoming more and more aware of the fact they need to look more critically at prescribing antipsychotics. It is time to look beyond symptoms and really focus on what is best for the patient.

This was my first in a series of blogs about psychiatry related topics. Keep following me for more insight and discussion about psychiatry and the functioning of antipsychotics and the effect psychiatry has on our lives. Talk about it with your caregivers in case there is an opportunity and if you feel inclined to do so. It’s all good.

Until next time!


Prof. dr. Jim van OsChair Division Neuroscience, Utrecht University Medical Centre. Jim is also Visiting Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Jim works at the interface of ‘hard’ brain science, health services research, art and subjective experiences of people with ‘lived experience’ in mental healthcare. 

Jim has been appearing on the Thomson-Reuter Web of Science list of ‘most influential scientific minds of our time’ since 2014. In 2014 he published his book ‘Beyond DSM-5‘, and in 2016 the book ‘Good Mental Health Care’. 

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  1. Beste Jim, heel erg bedankt voor deze blog en waardevolle informatie. Ik ben zelf iemand die na veel tegenslagen in het leven in heftige psychoses is terecht gekomen. Na deze psychoses is er nooit een behandeling of gesprekken geweest. Ze hebben mij alleen pillen voorgeschreven. Met dit soort informatie kan ik een discussie voeren met mijn zorgverlener. Sorry dat ik niet durf te communiceren met onder mijn echte naam. Het taboe en stigma is erg hardnekkig in deze samenleving.

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