Anxiety Medications: Elavil

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Generic Name: Amitriptyline

Elavil is in a group of drugs known as tricyclic antidepressants. This type of medication help to block the absorption of serotonin and norepinephrine by brain cells, allowing more of these chemicals to be available in the brain. Tricyclic antidepressants were one of the first types of antidepressants available and are still prescribed often to patients suffering from depression. This medication is sometimes used to treat bulimia (eating disorder), and to help control chronic pain or migraine headaches.

Elavil, as with many antidepressants, must be taken for several weeks before feeling the full effect of the medication. You can also experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking this medication. Talk with your doctor if you plan to discontinue use. Your doctor may want you to taper your doses in order to reduce or eliminate symptoms of withdrawal.

Before Taking Elavil

People that have recently had a heart attack should not take Elavil, if you have had a heart attack, have heart disease or are experiencing heart problems, such as palpitations, irregular heartbeat, talk with your doctor before beginning this medication.

In addition to heart problems, certain people should either not take Elavil or have an adjustment to their dosage to prevent any serious medical conditions from worsening. You should talk with your doctor about any medical condition you might have, especially any of the following:

  • Seizures or seizure disorder, such as epilepsy

  • Heart disease

  • Bipolar or any other psychiatric disorder

  • Diabetes

  • Thyroid disorder

  • Glaucoma

  • Urination problems

In addition, antidepressants have been shown to cause an increase in suicidal thoughts or a deepening of depression in some people, particularly in children, teens and young adults (under the age of 25). If you experience a worsening of depression symptoms or are having suicidal thoughts, you should contact your doctor or seek immediate medical help.

Side Effects of Elavil

Many people take Elavil without experiencing any side effects. Some people have mild side effects that disappear within a few days of beginning the medication. Other people may experience more serious side effects.

Common Side Effects

Contact your doctor if any of the following side effects do not disappear within a few days of beginning this medication or if they interfere with your daily activities:

  • Stomach problems, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea

  • Dizziness, drowsiness or feeling tired

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Nightmares

  • Headaches, blurred vision

  • Swelling of breasts (in either women or men)

  • Decreased sexual desire or inability to perform sexually

In addition to the more common side effects, some people experience more serious conditions, for any of these, you should contact your doctor immediately or seek emergency medical treatment:

  • Allergic reaction, including hives, itching, swollen mouth or trouble breathing

  • Chest pain, pain spreading to the arms, irregular heart rate, pounding heart beat

  • Numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body

  • Seizures or hallucinations

  • Headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech or coordination

  • Muscle tremors, shaking, jerking or other uncontrollable movements

  • Easily bruising or bleeding

  • Trouble urinating, infrequent urination

This is not a complete list of side effects. If you are experiencing other side effects, please contact your doctor to determine if you should seek additional medical care.

Drug Interaction

There are a number of other medications which may be affected by, or may increase or decrease the effectiveness of Elavil. You should talk with your doctor about any medications you may be taking, including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and vitamins. In particular, speak with your doctor if you are taking any of the following:

Other antidepressants

  • MAOI

  • Tagament

  • Ismelin

  • Antabuse

Medications to correct heart rhythm

In addition to these medications, grapefruit or grapefruit juice may interfere with the absorption and effectiveness of Elavil. Do not increase or decrease your consumption of grapefruit while taking this medication without first speaking with your doctor.

Pregnancy and Nursing

Elavil may be harmful to an unborn baby. Please talk with your doctor if you are or are planning to become pregnant. You and your doctor can determine if the benefits of taking this medication outweigh the risks to your unborn baby.

Elavil can pass to a baby through breast milk, therefore you should not breast-feed while taking Elavil.

  • "Elavil", Revised 2008, March 26, Author Unknown,

  • "Elavil", Date Unknown, Author Unknown,

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.