Side Effects of Zoloft (Sertraline)

Knowing What to Expect and When to Act

Zoloft Side Effects
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Zoloft (sertraline) is a type of antidepressant medication commonly used to treat depression and anxiety. It belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which work by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin (the "feel good" hormone) so that more is available in the system.

Zoloft the most prescribed antidepressant and the seventh most prescribed psychiatric drug in the U.S.

Most Common Zoloft Side Effects

As with all medications, Zoloft may cause certain unwanted side effects. The most commonly experienced in those taking Zoloft include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Agitation
  • Increased sweating
  • Sexual problems, including loss of libido and inability to ejaculate

Gastrointestinal problems can occur in as many as one in four people taking Zoloft. Others are far less common but, in some ways, far more distressing.

While the loss of libido can affect both men and women, men are especially impacted by physical symptoms of erectile dysfunction (occurring in four percent of men) and ejaculation problems (occurring in eight percent of men). People can often minimize these symptoms by taking Zoloft immediately after sex or adjusting treatment with the advice of their doctor.

Uncommon but Serious Side Effects

While far less common (occurring in less than two percent of patients), there are some serious side effects associated with Zoloft use.

In some cases, Zoloft may trigger or exacerbate psychiatric symptoms. Call your doctor if you experience any new or worsening psychiatric symptoms such as panic attacks, hallucinations, agitation, memory loss, impulsiveness, anxiety, or any symptom associated with psychosis, major depression, or bipolar mania.

On the other hand, you should seek immediate medical assistance if you experience any of the following:

  • Black or bloody stools
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • A severe or a persistent headache
  • Fever over 100o F
  • Seizure
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), a rare but potentially fatal allergic reaction

While all of these symptoms should be considered serious, SJS is particularly alarming due to the speed by which it can occur.

SJS typically begins with fatigue, fever, and sore throat, followed by the emergence of "angry" eruptive blisters on the face, trunk, arms, legs, and soles of the feet. If left untreated, SJS can quickly lead to sepsis, organ damage, blindness, shock, and even death.

Side Effects in Children and Adolescents

When prescribed in children or adolescents, Zoloft can cause a slightly different range of symptoms, some of which are less common in adults. Advise your pediatrician if your child experiences any of the following:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Frequent urination
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Heavy menstrual period
  • Abnormal or agitated muscle movements
  • Slowed growth
  • Weight changes

A Word From Verywell

The type and severity of Zoloft side effects will vary from person to person.

For most, the symptoms tend to be minimal and generally improve over time.

If you find you are unable to cope with the side effects, call your doctor immediately. There may be strategies your doctor can offer (including dose adjustment or adjunctive therapies) to help you better adjust to the prescribed treatment.

The important thing to avoid is stopping or changing treatment without input from your doctor. Not only might you undermine the goals of treatment, you may experience a condition known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (ADS) which can manifest with symptoms of withdrawal (including muscle aches, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, and abnormal sensations).

ADS can occur as early as six weeks after starting therapy.

Sources:

Herper, M. "America's Most Popular Mind Medicines." Forbes; published September 17, 2010.

Renoir, T. "Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant treatment discontinuation syndrome: a review of the clinical evidence and the possible mechanisms involved." Front Pharmacol. 2013; 4:45.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Highlight of Prescribing Information: Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) tablets, for oral use." Silver Springs, Maryland; updated December 2016.

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