Celexa vs Zoloft: What’s the Difference?

Published on: 18 Oct 2023
Clinically Reviewed by Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
Celexa vs. Zoloft

Understanding the differences between Celexa (citalopram) and Zoloft (sertraline) is essential before you take either. Both medications are in the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work by altering the amount of serotonin in the brain. Despite being in the same class, there are some key differences between Celexa vs Zoloft.  

Read on to learn everything you need to know about these popular antidepressant medications. Then, with your psychiatrist, primary care doctor, or healthcare provider, you can discuss if one of these drugs might fit into your treatment plan.  

Differences Between Celexa vs Zoloft

Like all drugs, there are significant differences between Celexa and Zoloft — from how they work, to what they treat, to how much you take. That’s why it’s so critical to learn as much as possible about these drugs before you decide to take either. 

Side effects

While there are potential side effects for any drug you’re considering, Celexa treatment has been shown to be effective in treating major depressive disorder with fewer side effects than some older generations of antidepressants. Understanding the possible side effects of any SSRI  with the help of a primary care provider, healthcare provider, or medical professional, is essential for effective mental health management.

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Common side effects of Celexa treatment:

  • Nausea or queasiness
  • Drowsiness or insomnia
  • Dry mouth 
  • Increased sweating
  • Change in sex drive or function

Common side effects of Zoloft:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sexual side effects
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Weight change

Conditions they treat

Celexa is FDA-approved to treat depression. It’s also used off-label to treat several other conditions. ‘Off-label’ means doctors have seen that a drug can be effective, but hasn’t been approved for use by the FDA for that certain use. 

Celexa off-label uses include:

Zoloft is approved for depression treatment and a few other conditions.

Zoloft is an FDA-approved drug to treat:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

In addition to these approved uses, Zoloft can also be used off-label to treat:

Dosage amount

One difference between Celexa and Zoloft is dosage. It’s important to follow each antidepressant medication’s instructions for dosing very carefully.

Celexa is available in:

  • Tablets — 10, 20, or 40 mgs
  • Capsule — 30 mg
  • Liquid — 10 mg/5mL

Zoloft is available in:

  • Tablets — 25, 50, or 100 mgs
  • Capsule — 150 – 200 mg
  • Liquid — 20 mg/mL

H4 Which is stronger, Celexa (citalopram) or Zoloft (sertraline)?  

It’s common to compare the strength of citalopram vs sertraline. Both drugs increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, the effectiveness of any drug will vary from person to person based on multiple factors, including diagnosis, age and weight, overall health condition, and other medications taken concurrently.

Similarities Between Celexa vs Zoloft

There are dosage similarities between these two medications — both generally start at lower doses and can be gradually increased based on response. 

Other similarities include:

  • Both are in the class of drugs known as SSRIs
  • Overlap in side effects like nausea, dry mouth, and change in sex drive or function
  • Many people tolerate SSRIs very well
  • Both drugs alter serotonin levels in the brain
  • Both can be used to treat depression

How they work

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications such as Celexa and Zoloft both work by increasing serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that sends messages. Too little serotonin can trigger anxiety symptoms or depression; balancing levels can boost and stabilize moods. SSRIs like Celexa and Zoloft can treat depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and some mood disorders. 

Effective treatment for depression

Celexa vs Zoloft for depression can effectively alleviate depressive symptoms for many people. Increasing serotonin levels can result in a noticeable improvement in mood, and SSRIs are often considered first-line treatment. 

In studies, Celexa has been found to be incredibly effective in treating depression. The efficacy of Zoloft has also been researched, and the results suggest that the drug can reduce symptoms like loss of interest in activities once enjoyed and low energy levels, both common with depression. 

“Both Celexa and Zoloft are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They increase serotonin breakdown in the neural synapse leading to an increased neurotransmitter that helps resolve depression symptoms.”

Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir
ConditionsMajor depressive disorder
Panic disorder (off-label use)
OCD (off-label use)
Social anxiety disorder
PTSD (off-label use)
PMDD (off-label use)
Binge eating disorder (off-label use)
Major depressive disorder 
Panic disorder
Social anxietydisorder
Generalized anxiety disorder(off-label use)
Autism (off-label use)
Personality disorders (off-label use)
Disordered eating (off-label use)
Common Side EffectsQueasiness/Nausea
Dry mouth 
Change in sex function or drive
Increased sweating
Nausea or vomiting
Sexual side effects
Dry mouth
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Weight change
Key ConsiderationsPossible drug interactions

Alcohol can cause dizziness or disorientation

Not approved for use in minors

Available in brand name or generic
Can interact with other drugs

Safe at therapeutic levels; however, may exacerbate existing heart issues

Available in brand name or generic

Determine if Celexa or Zoloft Is Right for You with Talkspace

Figuring out which antidepressant is right for you can take some time, but online psychiatrists at Talkspace can help. Talkspace psychiatrists can help you find the right effective treatment plan to improve your condition, reduce your symptoms, and help you reach your goals. 

Reach out to Talkspace today to learn more about getting prescription for Celexa or Zoloft online. Find out if one of these antidepressants might be a good option to try. 


  1. Keller MB. Citalopram therapy for depression: a review of 10 years of European experience and data from U.S. clinical trials. J Clin Psychiatry. 2000;61(12):896-908. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11206593/. Accessed August 20, 2023. 
  2. Lydiard RB, Perera P, Batzar E, Clary CM. From the bench to the Trench. The Primary Care Companion For CNS Disorders. 1999;1(5). doi:10.4088/pcc.v01n0504. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181082/. Accessed August 20, 2023. 

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

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