Zoloft, or sertraline, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat a multitude of mental illnesses, such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder. This medication works by restoring a chemical imbalance in the brain and offers many benefits, as it may improve one’s mood, appetite, sleep, and energy level; decrease anxiety, fear, and unwanted thoughts; help restore one’s interest in everyday life; and reduce the urge to repeat certain tasks (which is characteristic of obsessive compulsive disorder).

Use and Dosage

You should take Zoloft by mouth, typically once a day, either in the morning or evening. And if you are prescribed the tablet form of this medication, you may take it with or without food; but the capsule version is usually taken with food. Your doctor will provide you with more specific instructions, as prescribed dosage is based on your underlying medical condition and initial response to treatment. They will likely start you at a low dose to lessen your chance of developing unwanted side effects, but may gradually increase it as needed.

It is important that you take this medication directly as instructed, which means you should not take a higher dosage or take it more often than prescribed. You also should not cease taking the medication before first consulting your doctor, even if you see improvement in your condition, as doing so may cause some conditions to worsen. You can also experience harmful effects like mood swings, tiredness, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. Your doctor will slowly ween you off of Zoloft to reduce your chance of experiencing these side effects.

Potential Side Effects

As with the start of most new medications, Zoloft may produce some unwanted side effects, which range in severity. These side effects, however, do not typically outweigh the benefits of the medication, which is exactly why your doctor prescribed it to you. And if they persist or worsen, a simple discussion with your doctor may lead to a simple solution so you can continue to reap the benefits of Zoloft. Still, it is important you’re aware of possible mild, serious, and severe effects this medication may cause:

  • Mild Effects: Dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, dry mouth, loss of appetite, increased sweating, difficulty sleeping, diarrhea, and upset stomach; if you experience any of these effects, and they persist or worsen, you should tell your doctor accordingly.
  • Serious Effects: Decreased sexual interest or ability, easy bruising and/or bleeding, muscle cramps or weakness, shaking or tremors, and unusual weight loss. You should tell your doctor right away if you experience any of these more serious effects.
  • Severe Effects: Black or bloody stools, widened pupils, vomit that resembles coffee grounds, widened pupils, eye pain or swelling, and other changes in vision. These rarely occur, but in the off chance that they do, you should seek medical attention immediately.

In addition to the aforementioned effects, Zoloft may (rarely) cause serotonin syndrome/toxicity, a very serious condition that develops from an increase in serotonin. If you experience a fast heartbeat, loss of coordination, severe dizziness, abnormal agitation, severe nausea or diarrhea, get medical help right away, as these are symptoms of the harmful disease.

Furthermore, you can also have a very serious allergic reaction to this drug—though this seldom occurs, you should be aware of the symptoms, which include a rash, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, and severe dizziness. If you do experience any of these symptoms, you should again seek medical help right away.

Before Taking Zoloft…

It is vital you take precautionary measures anytime you’re considering a new medication, as they have very real and direct effects on your everyday life. Before you start taking Zoloft, it is vital you first…

  • Talk to your doctor about existing allergies, as this product may contain inactive ingredients that can cause allergic reactions or other issues.
  • Discuss your medical history with your doctor, especially a personal or family history of bipolar disorder, liver disease, bleeding problems, or glaucoma.
  • Understand all of Zoloft’s possible side effects and risks, as dizziness or drowsiness may occur, which will affect your ability to drive, use machinery, or perform any other activity that requires alertness and clear vision. Certain ages may also be more sensitive to certain side effects, such that older adults may be more sensitive to bleeding or loss of coordination and children to loss of appetite and weight loss.