June 9, 2022
5 min. read

Sertraline (Zoloft) for Depression: Side Effects and Key Facts to Know

Medly

Good to Know:

  • Sertraline is an antidepressant medication. It’s also known as its brand name, Zoloft.
  • Zoloft is used to treat major depressive disorder.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes sertraline, there are some common side effects you may experience.
  • There are also serious side effects to look out for.

If you’ve taken steps to seek treatment for depression—first of all, that’s a great and crucial step on your mental health journey.

Next, you may be aware that there are several antidepressant medications on the market, with one of the most common ones being sertraline, also called Zoloft. Sertraline can be an effective way to help treat or manage major depressive disorder.  If your doctor has started you on sertraline, here’s what you need to know.

What is sertraline?

Sertraline is also known by its brand name Zoloft. It’s a type of antidepressant medication. Sertraline can also help with symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a severe form of PMS that can cause depression before your period. 

Fast Facts: Sertraline can also be described for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

How does sertraline work?

Sertraline belongs to a group of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also called SSRIs. 

Serotonin does a lot for your body, but one of its main functions is acting as a neurotransmitter. This means it carries messages between brain neuron cells. 

Fast Facts: Serotonin helps with mood regulation, sleep, and digestion.

These antidepressants work by increasing serotonin levels in your brain. At the same time, SSRIs will stop the neurons in your brain from absorbing serotonin. This means your brain gets more serotonin, which means messages get relayed to your brain neurons more easily. This improves your brain’s chemical balance, letting your mood stabilize and helping to reduce symptoms of depression.

Quick Tips: Sertraline comes in two forms, tablets and concentrates. If your healthcare provider prescribed sertraline as a concentrate, dilute it with ½ cup of orange juice, lemon or lime soda, ginger ale, or water. Don’t dilute sertraline in any other beverages, and drink the solution as soon as it’s mixed.

Sertraline can be taken in the morning or the evening, but it’s best to try and take it at the same time every day. Store your medication at room temperature.

If you miss a dose of sertraline, take it as soon as possible, unless your next dosage is soon (i.e., you take sertraline in the morning and realize you’ve forgotten a dosage before bed). Do not take double your prescribed dose next time. Most importantly, follow the medical advice of your healthcare provider. 

What are the side effects of sertraline?

Like all antidepressant medications, sertraline can cause side effects. Not everyone will experience them, and most of them will be mild.

Common side effects of sertraline include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Constipation, diarrhea, or nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble sleeping, either falling asleep or staying asleep

Quick Tips: Dry mouth from sertraline? Try chewing gum or sucking on a breath mint.

These side effects will often subside after one to two weeks on Zoloft. However, some side effects of sertraline will not go away. Most of these are sexual problems, including decreased sex drive, delayed orgasm, erectile dysfunction, or delayed or absent ejaculation. If you experience these side effects, or if other side effects of sertraline do not go away, let your doctor know.

Fast Facts: We recommend avoiding alcohol with sertraline. Drinking alcohol while on antidepressants can cause negative side effects. Specifically, sertraline can cause dizziness, and alcohol can make this worse.

Sertraline and weight changes

Sertraline can cause weight changes in some people—either weight loss or weight gain. Loss of appetite is another side effect of sertraline, which can also affect weight.

Sometimes, sertraline is prescribed to treat binge eating disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, and bulimia nervosa. While the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved Zoloft as treatment for these conditions, healthcare providers may still use them for treatment. If your healthcare provider has prescribed sertraline for any of these conditions, follow their medical advice. And if you’re concerned about weight loss or weight gain from sertraline, discuss your concerns with your doctor.

Are there serious side effects of sertraline?

Yes, which is why it’s important to follow the advice of your healthcare provider. 

If you experience the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. They could be a sign of serious side effects that may need further treatment.

  • Abnormal bruising or bleeding
  • Heart trouble (with symptoms including chest pain, fainting, or slow or irregular heartbeat)
  • Low sodium levels (with symptoms including headaches, confusion, weakness, lack of coordination/balance, and memory issues)
  • Rash, hives, swelling, or other skin irritations, as these may be a sign of an allergic reaction
  • Seizures
  • Serotonin syndrome

Quick Tips: Some over-the-counter supplements, such as St. John’s Wort, can increase your risk of serotonin syndrome when taking sertraline. We recommend avoiding this supplement while on antidepressant medication, as well as discussing any vitamins or supplements you take with your provider.

Important information about antidepressants

In some cases, antidepressants can actually increase suicidal thoughts in those who take them. This typically happens in children, teenagers, and young adults (up to age 24). Antidepressants can also increase your risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior if you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

This is why it’s essential to follow the medical advice of your healthcare provider and alert them of any symptoms that may be concerning. Your doctor will monitor you closely while starting sertraline. If you notice any concerning changes in your thoughts, mood, or behavior, let them know immediately.

If you or someone you love is in acute distress or having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. 

When will I know if sertraline is working?

Antidepressant medications can take 4 to 8 weeks to work. Even if you start to feel better on sertraline, keep taking your medication unless otherwise directed by your doctor.

If your symptoms don’t improve after taking sertraline, or if your symptoms return, talk to your doctor. They may recommend increasing your dose of sertraline, combining it with another antidepressant medication, or adding therapy services to your treatment.

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