Tricyclic antidepressants are generally used to treat depression. However, a few of these medications are approved to also treat other conditions, such as bedwetting, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although it is not entirely clear how they work, it is believed that they cause certain chemicals to stay in the brain longer. Some potential side effects of these medications include dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches.
What Are Tricyclic Antidepressants?Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are prescription medications typically used to treat depression. A few of the tricyclic antidepressants are approved to treat other conditions, such as bedwetting, anxiety, insomnia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
(Click Uses of Tricyclic Antidepressants for more information on these uses, along with possible off-label uses for tricyclic antidepressants.)
How Do They 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).
When and How Do I Take Them?Some general considerations for when and how to take tricyclic antidepressant medications include:
- They are taken by mouth. Some people take their tricyclic antidepressant several times a day, while others take it just once a day at bedtime.
- If your tricyclic antidepressant makes you drowsy, ask your healthcare provider about taking it at night.
- You can take them with or without food. If your tricyclic antidepressant bothers your stomach, try taking it with food.
- They should be taken at the same time(s) each day to maintain an even level of the drug in your blood.
- For tricyclic antidepressants to work properly, they must be taken as prescribed. Your medication will not work if you stop taking it.