Depression Home > Tricyclic Antidepressants

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).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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