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 OverviewEvery tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) except clomipramine is approved for the treatment of depression. However, a few antidepressants are approved for additional uses, including:
- Bedwetting in children -- imipramine hydrochloride (Tofranil®)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) -- clomipramine (Anafranil®)
- Psychotic depression (depression with hallucinations, delusions, or other psychotic features) -- amoxapine (Asendin®)
- Anxiety -- doxepin (Sinequan®) is approved to treat anxiety, and several of the tricyclic antidepressants are approved to treat anxiety associated with depression.
- 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).