Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Tricyclics
Created as a treatment for depression, Tricyclics have sometimes been prescribed for GAD as well. Common names of Tricyclics include:
Effect of Tricyclics on Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Tricyclic antidepressants are thought to regulate serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Thus, they have been used effectively for the treatment of depression. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter with calming effects, and oftentimes people with anxiety do not have adequate amounts of serotonin. Thus, tricyclics can help in regulating levels of serotonin.
These drugs are highly toxic if taken in large doses; therefore, they are often not prescribed for suicidal patients. Tricyclic antidepressants are not addictive. These drugs are infrequently used for the treatment of GAD because of the many side effects, plus the overdose potential.
Side Effects and Warnings
TCAs have also been linked to sudden death syndrome in children. For this reason, many clinicians put them at the bottom of the list of ADHD medications for children. TCAs can also be risky for substance abusers. Before starting TCA treatment for children, doctors recommend getting a baseline EKG in addition to monitoring side effects.
The side effect associated with Tricyclic antidepressants are usually mild. These may include:
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Difficulty with urination
- Blood pressure changes
- Risk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts (Young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect.)
To reduce the risk of side effects, your doctor will prescribe a low starting dose and slowly increase the amount. Tricyclics are generally well-tolerated especially in low doses. The doses needed to induce pain relief are typically lower than the doses recommended for treating depression
All of the Tricyclics have the same side effects, but in varying degrees. To fully understand these potential side effects, they are grouped as follows:
- Anticholinergic- These side effects range from unpleasant (dry mouth, dry skin, blurred vision, and constipation) to serious (paralytic ileus, cessation of the movement of the intestine, which can lead to intestinal rupture and death; and urinary retention, inability to urinate, which in serious cases can lead to rupture of the bladder).
- Adrenergic- Side effects can include sweating, sexual dysfunction, and orthostatic hypotension-- sudden drop in blood pressure upon rising and a sensation of lightheadedness. This condition can lead to a fall and, in turn, to fractures, which can have serious medical consequences, particularly in the elderly.
- Antihistaminic- Side effects include sedation and weight gain.
- Miscellaneous- Other side effects include lowered seizure threshold, cardiac arrhythmia, hepatitis, rashes, sweating, anxiety, and elevated heart rate.