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Nortriptyline For Depression Treatment

Kristin Hall

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 5/1/2022

When depression hits, it can have devastating effects on your daily life. And, sadly, a lot of people experience this. In fact, close to 10 percent of people over the age of 18 in the U.S. will deal with some form of depression at one point in their life. And, unfortunately, it can really affect your quality of life.

Thankfully, there are treatment options readily available for those suffering from depression. One such treatment? Nortriptyline. But if you’re considering taking nortriptyline for depression, you’ll need to speak with a medical professional—not only is it a prescription medication, it’s always good to understand potential adverse effects before any antidepressant treatment.

But before consulting with a professional, it can be helpful to read up on different medications so you can ask about any specific questions that come up for you.

What Is Depression? 

Now that you know a good number of people deal with depression at some point in their life, it may also be helpful to have a better understanding of this mental health condition. Depression, which is sometimes referred to as major depressive disorder or just major depression, is a mental health disorder that can affect the way you think, feel and act.

There are a number of symptoms of depression. Some people show only a few, while others experience many. Depressed patients can also experience these adverse effects in different severities. Some of the most common depression symptoms are:

  • Pervasive feelings of sadness, anxiety or hopelessness 

  • Feeling irritable or worthless

  • Low energy

  • Tiredness

  • Being restless 

  • A loss of interest in things you once enjoyed

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Isolating yourself 

  • Having trouble sleeping

  • Thoughts of self-harm, death or even suicide

In order for the conclusion to be drawn that you are suffering from depression, some of these symptoms need to have been present for at least two weeks.

Taking Nortriptyline for Depression

As mentioned, nortriptyline is an antidepressant. Curious how antidepressants work? To do that, you need to understand what may cause depression. 

It is believed that depression is induced by low levels of specific neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are what transmit info between your neurons. 

Serotonin (which is thought to regulate your mood) and dopamine (which is connected to motivation) are two of those specific neurotransmitters that may be involved in depression. If your serotonin levels are wonky, it could induce depression.

That’s where antidepressants come in. When you take one, they can increase levels of those neurotransmitters to ease symptoms of depression. However, don’t expect them to work right away. It can take four to eight weeks before you notice a reduction in symptoms.

Now, back to the antidepressant nortriptyline. It is FDA-approved for the treatment of depression. It falls under a class of medications called tricyclic antidepressants. This medication can be purchased under its generic name (nortriptyline), but is also sold under the brand name Pamelor®. 

Nortriptyline comes in an oral tablet or an oral solution. It works by boosting levels of norepinephrine in the brain, with the goal being to reduce the effects of depression.

But, does it work? It can. While no antidepressant works for everyone, nortriptyline has been found to be effective. Just know that you may need to go through some dosage adjustments to find the right dosage for you.

One study of 92 people found that nortriptyline was effective for over a third of patients who had treatment-resistant depression. 

Side Effects of Nortriptyline

You should know that there are side effects associated with taking any antidepressant. With nortriptyline, some of the more common side effects include nausea, tiredness, dizziness, constipation, excessive sweating and more. 

If you experience any of the above adverse effects of nortriptyline in an extreme way or your symptoms don’t go away, consult with a healthcare professional — they will likely modify your dose of nortriptyline. In addition to this, if you experience any of the below more dangerous adverse effects, you may be at potential risk and should seek out medical attention immediately: 

  • Slow speech

  • Jaw, neck or back pain

  • Fever

  • Shaking that you can’t control

  • A hard time breathing 

  • An irregular heart rate

  • Yellow skin or eyes 

  • A rash

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Other Treatments for Depression

Nortriptyline is definitely a potentially good option to treat depression — but it’s not the only option. To figure out what may work for you, you should speak with a mental health professional. 

Not only will they be able to diagnose your depression, they can explain different treatment options to you. 

Therapy

Talk therapy can help with a wide array of mental health issues, including depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is most commonly suggested. 

There’s even research that backs up the idea that CBT can be effective in the treatment of depression. 

In CBT, you’ll work with a therapy professional to identify your depression and how it’s affecting your daily life. 

Then, you’ll set goals for what you’d like to change and identify patterns that are contributing to negative aspects of your life. 

From there, you’ll come up with ways to address those things and modify your behavior accordingly.  

Other Types of Antidepressants

Nortriptyline isn’t the only option when it comes to antidepressant medications. There are a number of other types, including something called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) and serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Another option for depressed patients is bupropion, which is sold under the brand name Wellbutrin®. This falls under a category called atypical antidepressant and can also be used to treat seasonal affective disorder.

It’s possible that you may be started on one dosage of an antidepressant and then eventually be recommended a dose increase if the lower dosage proves to not be effective enough. Dosage adjustments are totally normal and not a cause for concern.

Before taking any medication, you should let a healthcare provider know what other medications you may be taking to avoid any type of negative drug interactions that may create adverse effects.

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Considering Nortriptyline to Treat Depression 

If you’re suffering from depression, know this: you are not alone. Nearly 10 percent of U.S. adults deal with depression at some point in their life. 

To be diagnosed with depression, you’ll need to speak with a medical professional. They will assess you and ask what depressive symptoms you are experiencing. They may also ask about your family history. If it’s determined that you are navigating a depressive episode, the healthcare provider can then discuss treatment options with you. 

One common way to treat depression is through taking antidepressants — like nortriptyline. Considered a tricyclic antidepressant, it works by increasing norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter) in your brain. 

Some of the common adverse effects of nortriptyline include nausea, sleepiness, dizziness and more. If you feel these in extreme ways, you should contact a medical professional. 

Along with this type of antidepressant, there are other types that people with depression may be prescribed. Therapy is another treatment option. Often, both therapy and an antidepressant are recommended. 

To determine if nortriptyline (or another prescription antidepressant medication) is a good fit for your depression and review the risk factors, you should consult with a healthcare provider for medical advice.

13 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Mental Health Disorder Statistics. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/mental-health-disorder-statistics
  2. Winerman, L., (2017). By the Numbers: Antidepressant Use on the Rise. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/11/numbers
  3. What is Depression? American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
  4. Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression
  5. Hyman, S.E. (2005, March 8). Neurotransmitters. Current Biology. 15 (5), PR154-R158. Retrieved from https://www.cell.com/current-biology/comments/S0960-9822(05)00208-3
  6. What causes depression? (2019, June 24). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression
  7. Nortriptyline. Johns Hopkins. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/peripheral_nerve/patient_info/nortriptyline_2007.pdf
  8. Nortriptyline. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/nortriptyline
  9. Nierenberg, A., Papakostas, G., Peteresen, T., (2003). Nortriptyline for treatment-resistant depression. Clin Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12590621/
  10. Nortriptyline. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682620.html
  11. Gautam, M., Tripathi, A., Deshmukh, D., Gaur, M., (2020). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7001356/
  12. What Meds Treat Depression? Mental Health America. Retrieved from https://screening.mhanational.org/content/what-meds-treat-depression/
  13. Atypical Antidepressants. Mental Health America. Retrieved from https://screening.mhanational.org/content/atypical-antidepressants/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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