What is Zoloft (sertraline HCI)?

Zoloft is One of the Most Commonly Prescribed Medications for Panic Disorder

Zoloft bottles and pills
Ragesoss/Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

If you have been diagnosed with panic disorder, your doctor may have prescribed you an antidepressant, such as Zoloft (sertraline HCI). Understanding how this medication works can help you manage your illness and adhere to your treatment plan. 

What is Zoloft (sertraline HCI)?

Zoloft is a medication that is prescribed to treat mental illnesses like depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

People who take Zoloft often report improvements in mood, appetite, sleep quality, energy level and interest in daily life. Many say that they feel less afraid or anxious and have fewer panic attacks

How Does Zoloft Treat Panic Disorder?

Zoloft belongs to a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications work by restoring the balance of serotonin, a chemical in the brain connected to mood. Zoloft helps slow down and balance the absorption of serotonin by the brain cells. 

What are the Side Effects of Zoloft?

Side effects of Zoloft include:

  • Thoughts of suicide or dying
  • New or worsened depression
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Angry outbursts
  • Impulsivity
  • Changes in behavior or mood

If you experience these symptoms, call your doctor right away. 

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following less common side effects:

  • Signs that you are having an allergic reaction: hives, rash, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and swelling of the face, mouth, throat, or tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Extreme nervousness, irritability, or anxiety
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts

Zoloft and Black-Box Warnings

The so-called "Black-Box Warnings" are the Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) most stringent warning about medications before pulling them from the shelves of pharmacies and hospitals.

Zoloft is a black-box product for its potential to cause or increase suicidal thoughts; the FDA has issued many warnings about potential serious complications for those who take the drug. 

The potential for these severe side effects should be weighed against the clinical need before being prescribed. Make sure you talk with your doctor to make sure you understand his decision to prescribe Zoloft and the risks it presents. 

How Long Zoloft Takes to Work

Do not expect Zoloft to immediately help reduce your symptoms of panic disorder. Typically, you may notice improvements within one to two weeks. However, it may take several months before you reach the full effects of Zoloft.

Missing Your Dosage of Zoloft

If you forget to take a dosage of Zoloft, take it as soon as you remember, except if it is close to your next dosage time. Never take two dosages of Zoloft at the same time. Instead, take your scheduled dosage and then return to your regular dosage plan.

Discontinuing Your Zoloft Prescription

Never abruptly discontinue your prescription on your own. If you determine that you no longer want to take Zoloft, your doctor can assist you in gradually reducing your dosage. Suddenly stopping your dosage can cause you to experience some serious withdrawal-like symptoms, such as increased anxiety, irritability, and confusion.


Dudley, William. Antidepressants. 2008.

FDA. "Zoloft (sertraline HCI) Prescribing Information, 2015. 

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