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Tricyclic Antidepressants Review – 8 Reasons Why

By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

Reviewed by Rebecca Williams, MD, MA, MB, BChir

Last Updated:

Evidence Based | Facts | Nutrition Info | Claims | Warnings | Cost | Dosing | Verdict

Tricyclic antidepressants is a category of antidepressants, one of the first ever developed. Even though new antidepressants with fewer side-effects have been developed since, sometimes they fail to be effective where tricyclic ones work.

Tricyclic antidepressants were developed in the 1950’s and have been used in the clinical treatment of mood disorders (major depressive disorder, dysthymia and bipolar disorder ). Other medical disorders treated with tricyclic antidepressants are various anxiety disorders (such asocial anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder), post-traumatic stress disorder, body dismorphic disorder, eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia), personality disorders (like ADHD), headache, migraine, smoking cessation, Tourette Syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis and nocturnal enuresis.

Some of them have also been approved by the FDA.


1) Tricyclic Antidepressants Quick Facts

Tricyclic antidepressants or cyclic antidepressants act by affecting neurotransmitters, changing the level of one or more of these chemical transmitters at brain level. The neurotransmitters affected by tricyclic antidepressants are serotonin and norepinephrine. The antidepressants work by blocking their absorption, thus making them available to the brain.

Some of their most common side-effects are: drowsiness, dizziness, disorientation and confusion, blurred vision, increased appetite, weight gain, fatigue, headache, nausea, increased heart rate and sensitivity to sunlight.
Tricyclic antidepressants have been used for years as the best choice for pharmacological treatment of clinical depression. Today they are being replaced by antidepressants with improved safety and fewer side-effects, but are still used occasionally for treatment-resistant depression.

An important reason for the replacement of their use is that newer products are thought to be less dangerous in a suicide attempt.

Nutrition Info

2) Ingredients of Tricyclic Antidepressants

Not applicable.

3) Does Tricyclic Antidepressants Work and it is Safe?

Tricyclic Antidepressants are stated to help with regulating the mood and reducing anxiety in people. This type of medication is commonly used for a wide spectrum of mental health concerns. Scientists believe that this form of medication can change the levels of the chemicals in the brain, which will result in a more balanced mood and reduced symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Tricyclic Antidepressants work the best when they are taken on a daily basis. Even when someone feels like they are doing better, they need to continue to take them. The daily dose will vary based on the needs of the patient. Most doctors will start out with a low dose and monitor the success.

Tricyclic Antidepressants side effects that have been identified include drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, sensitivity to light, headache, fatigue, weight gain, blurred vision, constipation, trouble urinating, dizziness, confusion, changes in blood pressure, and insomnia. These side effects should subside after the body gets used to the medication.

Some individuals experience severe side effects when they use Tricyclic Antidepressants. These symptoms should immediately be reported to the doctor. They include changes in heart rate, severe fever, hallucinations, rash or hives, and seizures.

Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant shouldn’t take these drugs. Women who are nursing should also avoid using them.


4) What Tricyclic Antidepressants Does?

  • Some cyclic antidepressants are FDA approved
  • Highly effective in some treatment-resistant forms of depression.


5) Tricyclic Antidepressants Product Warnings

  • Numerous Tricyclic Antidepressants side effects
  • They also affect other neurotransmitters besides the targeted one (resulting in undetermined negative consequences).


6) Tricyclic Antidepressants Cost

The price of Tricyclic Antidepressants will vary greatly based on numerous factors. Brand names will always be more expensive than generic names. However, most prescription coverage plans and health insurance programs will cover the cost of treatment with these drugs.


7) Tricyclic Antidepressants Serving Size

The side effects usually trigger before the therapeutic benefits can be noticed and for this reason they may be potentially dangerous, as patients are prone to committing suicide during treatment.


8) Our Verdict on Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants are the first large scale antipsychotic drugs used. They are not considered addictive and are, according to some specialists, preferable to the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Most of the cyclic neurotransmitters act as inhibitors of reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, enhancing the transmission of information between brain cells. By increasing the levels available to the brain, it is believed that antidepressants have a mood booster effect.

They have been and are still used are on a smaller scale in the treatment of clinical depression, ADHD (now they are usually replaced by more effective agents with fewer side effects) and chronic pain.

3.5/5 - (2 votes)
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I was prescribed Elavil to help me sleep. I use to toss and turn and think about the day, the next day, and the day after. I take this medication and I am asleep within 20 minutes. I sleep all night without waking up. I also take it to get a complete night sleep to refresh my body to fight the next day with fibromyalgia.


I took Tofranil (imipramine) for Depression: At first this medicine seemed great. Was taking it for depression and generalized anxiety disorder. After a week on the lowest dose I started having bad side effects. I was shaving one morning and noticed my face, lips and arm felt numb. Doctor reduced my dosage to 10mg that worked okay for a week then same side effects.