Difference Between Typical and Atypical Antipsychotics

Main Difference – Typical vs Atypical Antipsychotics

Psychiatry is a broad subject which studies a huge ratio of human interactions. Most specialists may try to heal patients just by using non-medical interventions but at some point, the necessity for medication arises. Typical antipsychotics and atypical antipsychotics are two different subtypes of antipsychotics which are often used in this field of psychiatry. The main difference between typical and atypical antipsychotics is the fact that atypical antipsychotics have fewer side effects than typical antipsychotics. 

This article explains,

1. What are Typical Antipsychotics?

2. What are Atypical Antipsychotics?

3. Difference Between Typical and Atypical Antipsychotics?

Difference Between Typical and Atypical Antipsychotics - Comparison Summary

What are Typical Antipsychotics

Typical antipsychotics, also called first-generation antipsychotic drugs, are mainly used in the treatment of distress, acute obsession and other psychotic conditions. Typical antipsychotic drug is further categorised into 3 classes: low potency, medium potency and high potency.

They act on our dopamine system, by transiently occupying D2 receptors and then rapidly dissociating to allow normal dopamine neurotransmission. This keeps prolactin levels normal and releases cognition.

What are the Side Effects of Typical Antipsychotics

Typical Antipsychotics can cause extrapyramidal motor control debilities in patients which may return once the medication is discontinued even after using it on a long term basis. Commonest motor disturbances associated with this condition are particularly dominant in the facial muscles, tongue and jaw.  

Other common side effects of typical antipsychotic include body quivers and stiffness. Weight gain along with dry mouth, muscle cramping and rigidity are also side effects of these medications. One of the most dangerous and incurable side effects of this drug is Neuroleptic malignant syndrome which usually comes with high fever and rehabilitated mental status. Examples are, Haloperidol and Chlorpromazine

Difference Between Typical and Atypical Antipsychotics

Typical antipsyhotics: Levomepromazin 5mg, flupentixol 5mg and perfenazin 4mg.

What are Atypical Antipsychotics

Atypical antipsychotics, also known as new generation antipsychotics, are known to fewer side effects when compared to the other types.

Examples: Clozapine, Quetiapine

This type of antipsychotics are less likely to cause side effects such as extrapyramidal motor control and Tardive dyskinesia disabilities in the patient along with weight gain, dry mouth, muscle cramping and stiffness. Lon-term usage of this drug may result in extreme weakness and abnormal shifts in sleeping patterns.

Main Difference - Typical vs  Atypical  Antipsychotics


Difference Between Typical and Atypical Antipsychotics

Side Effects:

Even though both these drugs are equally used in the treatment of psychosis, atypical antipsychotic drugs are often preferred over typical antipsychotic drugs since the proven side effects are fewer in the former.

Withdrawal Symptoms:

As far as the withdrawal symptoms are concerned, typical ones own fewer outcomes when compared to those of atypical. However, the debate is still on as to which of these two drugs is more powerful.


Bezchlibnyk-Butler K, Jeffries J (2000). Clinical Handbook of Psychotropic Drugs, 10th edn Hogrefe & Huber Publishers: Seattle.

Carlsson A (1978). Antipsychotic drugs, neurotransmitters, and schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry 135: 165–173. | PubMed |

Image Courtesy:

“Typical antipsychotics” By ZngZng – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

“Risperdal tablets” By Housed – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music