Depression Home > Uses of Tricyclic Antidepressants

Although tricyclic antidepressants are primarily approved to treat depression, some of them are approved for additional uses, such as bedwetting, obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychotic depression, and anxiety. There are also several off-label uses of tricyclic antidepressants, such as treating chronic pain, preventing migraines, and helping people quit smoking.

Uses of Tricyclic Antidepressants: An Overview

Every tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) except clomipramine is approved for the treatment of depression. However, a few antidepressants are approved for additional uses, including:
 

 

  • Insomnia -- low-dose doxepin (Silenor®) is approved for the treatment of insomnia characterized by difficulty staying asleep (as opposed to difficulty falling asleep). 

 

How Do Tricyclic Antidepressants Work?

It is not entirely clear how tricyclic antidepressants work. They affect several chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and norepinephrine. It is thought that maybe tricyclic antidepressants allow these chemicals to stay in the brain longer, which can help with symptoms of depression.
 
One tricyclic antidepressant, amoxapine (Asendin), also affects dopamine. This makes this particular medication especially useful for treating psychotic depression (depression with hallucinations, delusions, or other psychotic features).
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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