Zoloft (Sertraline): Uses, Side Effects, Dosage

Published on: 22 May 2023
Clinically Reviewed by Bisma Anwar, LMHC

Zoloft (sertraline) is an antidepressant medication in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. Zoloft increases serotonin levels in the brain — serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps maintain mental balance. 

Zoloft is indicated for the treatment of depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and social anxiety disorder. However, there are several other Zoloft uses that are prescribed off-label, too. 

Continue reading this medication guide to learn more about this effective, affordable drug. 

What is Zoloft?

What is Zoloft for? This medication is most well-known for helping relieve symptoms of depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). It also is used for tics and tourette disorder.

How does Zoloft work?

Zoloft is an SSRI antidepressant that works by blocking the absorption of serotonin back into nerve cells after it’s been released. This allows more serotonin to remain active in the brain, which helps regulate moods and emotions. In high doses, Zoloft can also affect other chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, which regulates energy and pleasure levels and improves motivation and satisfaction.

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How does Zoloft make you feel?

The effects of taking Zoloft vary from person to person, but generally, people who take this medication report feeling calmer and less anxious than before they started taking it. They may also experience improved moods with fewer episodes of depression or anxiety attacks. Some people have reported increased energy levels, while others have experienced improved sleep quality or decreased appetite due to reduced cravings for unhealthy foods like sugar or caffeine. 

Additionally, some people who take Zoloft have noticed an increased ability to concentrate on tasks without being easily distracted and improved self-confidence when interacting with others socially or professionally.

Zoloft Uses

Zoloft can treat various conditions, including major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, and PTSD. Sometimes, people use Zoloft for anxiety and conditions like bipolar disorder. It may also be used in conjunction with a mood stabilizer or other medications prescribed for bipolar disorder.

Major depressive disorder (MDD)

When it comes to treating MDD with Zoloft, the drug works by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain, helping to improve mood. Studies show that Zoloft effectively reduces symptoms like low energy levels, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, changes in appetite, or weight gain/loss. Zoloft can also help alleviate guilt or feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts associated with depression.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

For PTSD treatment, Zoloft has been found in studies to reduce symptoms like flashbacks from traumatic events, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts about the event(s). Other benefits can include improved sleep quality and decreased avoidance behaviors, such as bypassing certain places or people related to the trauma.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

According to research, Zoloft can treat PMDD to reduce physical pain caused by cramps during menstruation. It also may improve emotional well-being and decrease irritability and mood swings leading up to ovulation cycles.

Panic attacks

When managing panic attacks with Zoloft, studies found that the drug decreases the intensity and frequency of episodes. It can also improve overall mental health and reduce fear and avoidance behavior associated with attacks.

Social anxiety disorder

Research shows that using Zoloft for anxiety that occurs in social situations can provide relief from symptoms such as fear, embarrassment, worry, and public speaking. Additionally, this medication is known to help boost self-confidence and motivation while allowing the patient to lead a more fulfilling life free from these fears and worries.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

In studies, people with OCD have reported positive results when taking Zoloft. Seeing a significant reduction in compulsions and obsessions is common. For severe OCD symptoms, the dose of Zoloft can be much higher than the recommnded dose on the package insert. If prescribed, your psychiatrist will explain and discuss how to use it safely and watch for the side effects.

Off-label uses

Beyond the traditional Zoloft uses that are approved by the FDA, this SSRI may also be prescribed off-label to treat several conditions. Off-label means that even though it wasn’t originally intended to treat a certain condition, it may be prescribed by your doctor if they think it will be beneficial. 

Zoloft can be used off-label to treat:

  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

Pros & Cons of Zoloft

“The main benefit of Zoloft is the improved mood. It also helps with sleep, appetite, and increasing energy levels. It has been known to decrease fear, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts. Zoloft can help you to feel more stable and in control of your moods by helping you to feel more relaxed.”

Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
Pros of ZoloftCons of Zoloft
Effective in treating various mental health conditionsCan cause withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly 
Reduces symptoms associated with depression and anxiety disordersMust taper off slowly under medical supervision when discontinuing use 
Well tolerated with few side effects  Common side effects include nausea and headaches 
Does not require any dietary or lifestyle changes to work effectively Can be difficult for some people to continue using long-term due to side effects
Generic versions available that can help reduce costs Although rarer than other SSRIs, has the potential for serious side effects like suicidal thoughts or behavior  

Side Effects of Zoloft

Now that you understand how to answer the question of what is Zoloft for, like any drug, you should take the time to look at some of the potential side effects.

Common side effects of Zoloft include: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sexual side effects
  • Weight change

Less common, but more severe, side effects can include:

  • Changes in mood or behavior 
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle weakness or tightness
  • Tremor or shaking hands and feet
  • Vision problems, including blurred vision and tunnel vision

Many of these side effects will likely disappear after the first few weeks of taking the medication. However, contact a doctor if they persist.

Zoloft Dosage

Zoloft comes in a pill or liquid form and is taken once daily, with or without food. 

  • For depression in adults: Typically, adults start on 50 mg of Zoloft daily. Long-term use of Zoloft can be 50 – 200 mg per day.  
  • For OCD in adults: Adults generally start on 50 mg of Zoloft daily to treat OCD. Zoloft dosage for OCD can be 50 – 200 mg per day long-term.
  • For panic disorder in adults: To treat panic disorder, adults often start on 25 mg of Zoloft daily for 1 week. Then, the dose can be increased to 50 mg per day. 50 – 200 mg of Zoloft daily can be prescribed as a long-term treatment for panic disorder.     
  • For PTSD in adults: 25 mg of Zoloft per day is the typical initial dose prescribed. This may be increased to up to 50 mg a day after 1 week. The maintenance dosage of Zoloft for PTSD can be 50 – 200 mg per day.  
  • For social anxiety disorder in adults: 25 mg of Zoloft each day, upped to 50 mg after 1 week. For long-term use, the dosage may end up being 50 – 200 mg per day to treat social anxiety disorder.
  • For PDD in adult women: Women can take 50 mg of Zoloft daily during their menstrual cycle.During menstrual cycle, women can take 50 – 150 mg of Zoloft per day.

Note: there’s also the potential for women to take Zoloft as a cyclic regimen to treat PDD. To treat in this manner, they would start with 50 mg/day 14 days before their cycle; maintenance would be 50 – 100 mg/day. 

How to take Zoloft

When starting Zoloft, most people will begin by taking 50 mg once daily. This dose may be increased or decreased by your doctor depending on how well it works and any side effects experienced.  

Take Zoloft at the same time each day and stick to the instructions given by your healthcare provider about when and how much you should take. You can take Zoloft with or without food. If you suddenly have difficulty sleeping after you start Zoloft, try taking it in the morning to see if that helps. 

Do not stop taking Zoloft without consulting your doctor first, as the symptoms of Zoloft withdrawal can be severe.

Additional Considerations

When taking any medication, be aware of potential interactions and warnings. Zoloft is no exception. Zoloft is a prescription drug that should only be taken under the supervision of a psychiatrist or other qualified healthcare professional.

“As with any medication, you should weigh the risk and the strengths. Discuss with a doctor before starting or discontinuing the medication.”

Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW


When taking Zoloft, you should avoid drinking alcohol as it can increase the risk of side effects such as drowsiness and dizziness. 

Inform your doctor if you’re taking other medications, including herbal supplements or over-the-counter drugs, as they may interact with Zoloft in potentially dangerous ways. 

Some examples of substances or things that are known to have negative interactions with Zoloft include: 

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Lithium
  • Tryptophan
  • Buspirone
  • St. John’s wort 
  • Certain antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Grapefruit


Zoloft is known to potentially cause heart problems. Before taking Zoloft, discuss all medical history with your doctor to determine whether this medication will be safe for you. This includes discussing other mental health conditions, like: 

  • Depression 
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Seizures
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Glaucoma 
  • Thyroid disorders 

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take Zoloft without consulting their physician first due to possible associated risks.

Zoloft Alternatives

One of the most commonly prescribed alternatives to Zoloft is Prozac (fluoxetine). This drug works similarly to Zoloft by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, which can regulate moods. For some people, Prozac has fewer side effects than Zoloft (like weight gain or sexual dysfunction). Prozac can take up to 4 weeks before you start feeling its full impact, whereas Zoloft can be shorter or longer depending on the individual’s response. For more details on how the two stack up against each other, review our article on Prozac vs. Zoloft.

Another alternative is Celexa (citalopram), which also increases serotonin levels in the brain — like Prozac and Zoloft — but can take even longer to work.

Other antidepressants that may be prescribed include Lexapro (escitalopram), Paxil (paroxetine), and Wellbutrin (bupropion). These drugs work differently from one another, providing different benefits and risks. 

Your doctor can help you determine what medication is best to treat the symptoms of your condition. 

Online Zoloft Prescription Through Talkspace Psychiatry

Are you looking for an online Zoloft prescription? Talkspace Psychiatry can help. With the convenience of online psychiatry, our licensed psychiatrists can provide a comprehensive evaluation and prescribe medications when appropriate. Reach out to Talkspace today to learn more about how we can help you find the right combination of therapy and medication — you’re just one click away from starting your healing journey. 


  1. Lydiard RB, Perera P, Batzar E, Clary CM. From the bench to the Trench. The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 1999;01(05):154-162. doi:10.4088/pcc.v01n0504. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181082/. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  2. Brady K, Pearlstein T, Asnis GM, et al. Efficacy and safety of sertraline treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder. JAMA. 2000;283(14):1837. doi:10.1001/jama.283.14.1837. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/192575. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  3. Freeman EW, Sondheimer SJ. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: Recognition and treatment. The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2003;05(01):30-39. doi:10.4088/pcc.v05n0106. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC353031/. Accessed February 8, 2023. 
  4. Hobgood CD, Clayton AH. Sertraline in the treatment of panic disorder. Drugs Today (Barc). 2009;45(5):351-361. doi:10.1358/dot.2009.45.5.1362066. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19584964/. Accessed February 8, 2023. 
  5. Liebowitz MR, DeMartinis NA, Weihs K, et al. Efficacy of sertraline in severe generalized social anxiety disorder. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2003;64(7):785-792. doi:10.4088/jcp.v64n0708. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12934979/. Accessed February 8, 2023. 
  6. Brar, MBBSa J, Sidana, MDa A, Chauhan, MD, DMa N, Bajaj, MPhil, PhDa MK. Early Improvement as a Predictor of Treatment Response in Patients With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A 12-Week Randomized Trial of Sertraline and Fluvoxamine. Psychiatristcom. March 2022. https://www.psychiatrist.com/pcc/ocd/early-improvement-predictor-treatment-response-patients-obsessive-compulsive-disorder-12-week-randomized-trial-sertraline-fluvoxamine. 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.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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