Zoloft (Sertraline), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants today. It’s approved to treat depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). There are other off-label uses for Zoloft, like binge eating disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Despite its efficacy in treating multiple conditions, like any other medication or drug, there are potential risks and discontinuation symptoms to be aware of when stopping antidepressants like Zoloft suddenly. Research shows that up to 20% of people experience what’s known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, or antidepressant withdrawal syndrome when they abruptly stop taking their medication.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. If the time ever comes, you can avoid many unpleasant SSRI withdrawal symptoms with the right plan, support, and guidance. From learning how long Zoloft withdrawal lasts, to discovering what to expect if you do go through it, here are a few things you should know so the process can be as safe and successful as possible. Keep reading for more information on withdrawal from Zoloft.
Can Zoloft Be Stopped Cold Turkey?
No — Zoloft (Sertraline) should not be stopped cold turkey. Zoloft is in a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reputable inhibitors (SSRIs). It’s not because of Zoloft addiction but rather the dependence that your body has built on the medication. Stopping an antidepressant medication too quickly can cause serious side effects. For example, many people report dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, among other symptoms, when they try to stop Zoloft without the right taper plan.
“If you’re thinking about discontinuing taking Zoloft, it’s important to keep in mind that stopping any medication cold turkey can be dangerous. It’s always advised that you talk to your doctor or psychiatrist first.”– Talkspace Therapist, Dr. Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW
Sertraline withdrawal is something to be expected and it is important that you stop taking this medication the right way, to avoid or reduce these side effects.
If you want to come off your antidepressant — and this is true for any of them, not just Zoloft — you must speak with your doctor first.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Zoloft
When you start your Zoloft detox, you might experience some common withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to note that some people won’t go through any withdrawal from an SSRI antidepressant.
If you do experience symptoms, though, they can usually be managed and controlled. Symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on body chemistry, dosage, and other factors.
Emotional symptoms that are commonly associated with Zoloft withdrawal might include:
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- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Suicidal thoughts
- Intensified feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Some people may experience increased cravings for drugs or alcohol. When experiencing these thoughts or feelings, it is important to always practice self-care and take care of yourself, so you can feel your best. You can also try one of the many types of therapy, which can help you sort out and manage the strong emotional symptoms you may be facing.
Physical symptoms associated with withdrawal from Zoloft may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Muscle aches/pains
- Sweating more than usual
- Feeling weak
- Trembling hands
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite (increased hunger)
- Weight gain/loss
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Heart palpitations
Many people report flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches, and joint pain.
How Long Does Zoloft Withdrawal Last?
Zoloft withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks after you take your last dose. The severity of symptoms will vary and ultimately depend on the factors like body chemistry and dosage taken before discontinuation.
While some people may not experience any withdrawal effects, others can find them unbearable or even dangerous if left untreated.
The trick to stopping Zoloft (or any other antidepressant) without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms is to wean off your medication slowly.
Zoloft withdrawal timeline
When trying to determine how long Zoloft withdrawal lasts, understanding the timeline can help. A Zoloft withdrawal timeline depends on things like you, your body chemistry, your dose, and how long you took the medication.
Slowly tapering off Zoloft over several weeks is an excellent example of a Zoloft withdrawal timeline plan.
When does Zoloft withdrawal peak?
“Zoloft withdrawal symptoms peak at 36 to 96 hours after stopping Zoloft and could last up to 6 weeks.”– Talkspace Therapist, Dr. Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW
How to Cope with a Zoloft Withdrawal
If you plan on stopping Zoloft and are worried about experiencing withdrawal, here are some tips to avoid most or all the symptoms.
- Recognize the symptoms: Common withdrawal symptoms of Zoloft include dizziness, nausea, headache, insomnia or vivid dreams, anxiety, and irritability. When you’re aware of and recognize these signs, you can address them as soon as possible.
- Talk to your doctor: If you experience any of these symptoms after stopping your medication, talk with your doctor about what might help. For example, tapering off more slowly or switching medications might be necessary.
- Get support from friends and family: During this time, support from friends and family can make a massive difference in helping you cope more effectively with the withdrawal process. They can provide emotional support and understanding when things get tough for you emotionally or physically due to the withdrawal process.
- Exercise regularly: Exercise can be effective in reducing stress levels and improving overall mental health. Even light exercise — something as simple as walking around your neighborhood for 30 minutes — can improve your mood.
- Take time for yourself: Taking time out of each day just for yourself, whether you read a book, listen to music, or meditate, can help reduce stress levels while dealing with withdrawal from Zoloft. Sometimes, a little self care can give you a much-needed break, helping to clear your mind and allowing you to think more clearly without feeling overwhelmed by emotions caused by Zoloft withdrawal symptoms.
“To safely come off Zoloft and avoid withdrawal symptoms, speak to your doctor who will slowly lower the dosage over time so your body does not experience abrupt discontinuation of the drug.”– Talkspace Therapist, Dr. Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW
Talk with a Licensed Psychiatrist
You should always speak with a qualified mental health professional before discontinuing antidepressant medications like Zoloft. Your doctor can help assess and guide you on the safest way to stop taking this medication and minimize Zoloft withdrawal symptoms. They also might recommend alternative treatments or lifestyle changes that could reduce your need for Zoloft altogether.
Coming off Zoloft can be a difficult, often overwhelming process, but with the right guidance and support from a licensed psychiatrist, it is possible to do so safely.
Virtual consultations with Talkspace’s psychiatrists are available to properly assess your needs. With their knowledge, licensed professionals may prescribe Zoloft online to relieve your symptoms or help advise if you are thinking about getting off the medication.
- Gabriel M, Sharma V. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2017;189(21). doi:10.1503/cmaj.160991. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449237/. Accessed February 8, 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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