Phobias Types How Zoloft (Sertraline) Is Used as a Treatment Interactions, Side Effects, and Cautions By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 20, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Basak Gurbuz Derman / Moment / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents How SSRIs Work Dosage Drug Interactions Cautions Side Effects Withdrawal Symptoms Zoloft (sertraline) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Although it is most commonly used to treat depression, it is also used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Zoloft is sometimes prescribed for social anxiety disorder and other phobias. Learn how it works, possible side effects, and precautions. How SSRIs Work SSRIs are known as second-generation antidepressants since they are newer than monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). SSRIs work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin into neurons in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter, which transmits electrical impulses from one neuron to the next. Normally, serotonin is quickly reabsorbed, but an SSRI lets the serotonin remain in the synaptic gap between neurons for a longer period of time. This allows the chemical to send additional messages to the receiving neuron, which in turn is thought to boost mood. Dosage Zoloft is available in a variety of strengths and is only sold by prescription. Both liquid and tablet forms of the medication are available. Like all medications in its class, Zoloft does not perform optimally until you have taken it consistently for several weeks. You may or may not quickly begin to feel the effects. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. Drug Interactions Avoid the liquid formulation of Zoloft if you are on Antabuse (disulfiram) because it contains alcohol. Wait at least 14 days after your last dose of any MAOI before beginning sertraline treatment. Zoloft interacts with a wide range of natural remedies. Ask your doctor before taking tryptophan, St. John's wort, or any other herbal or natural formulation. In addition, Zoloft interacts with numerous prescription and over-the-counter medications, including NSAID pain relievers, diuretics, stomach medicines, blood thinners, and treatments for certain mental illnesses. Provide your doctor with a full list of all over-the-counter, prescription, and natural products you use, and do not add anything new without your doctor's approval. Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs while using sertraline. Cautions Since 2005, all SSRIs have carried "black box" warnings from the FDA regarding a higher risk for suicidal ideation and behavior in children. The FDA expanded its warning in 2007 to include young adults under the age of 25. Although many young people successfully take these common medications, informed consent is important. Discuss the benefits and risks with your child's doctor before making a decision. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Your risks from Zoloft may be higher if you have certain medical conditions, including diabetes, low blood sodium levels, seizures, and liver disease. Give your doctor a full medical history of all current and previous illnesses. Also, let your doctor know if you have a history of drug abuse. If you are currently breastfeeding or pregnant, or if you plan to become pregnant, discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with your physician. Side Effects Like all medicines, Zoloft carries a risk for side effects. Common side effects such as headache, sleep difficulties, dry mouth, sweating, and loss of appetite are typically mild and may subside in a few days or weeks. Let your doctor know right away if you experience more severe side effects such as chest pain, skin rash, vomiting, anxiety, diarrhea, aggression, or confusion. Negative Side Effects of Antidepressants Withdrawal Symptoms All SSRIs, including Zoloft, carry a risk for a collection of withdrawal symptoms known as SSRI discontinuation syndrome. Common sertraline withdrawal symptoms include odd electrical sensations known as "brain jolts" or "brain zaps," dizziness, and headaches. Although the syndrome is not generally considered dangerous, the symptoms can be distressing. Don't lower your dose or suddenly stop taking Zoloft without your doctor's approval. How Long Does Withdrawal From Antidepressants Last? 11 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. ZOLOFT® (sertraline hydrochloride) Tablets and Oral Concentrate. Wang SM, Han C, Bahk WM, et al. Addressing the Side Effects of Contemporary Antidepressant Drugs: A Comprehensive Review. Chonnam Med J. 2018;54(2):101-112. doi:10.4068/cmj.2018.54.2.101 Swanson J. Scientific American. Unraveling the Mystery of How Antidepression Drugs Work. December 10, 2013. Drugs.com. Zoloft. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. St. John's Wort and Depression: In Depth. Drugs.com. Sertraline Drug Interactions. Fornaro M, Anastasia A, Valchera A, et al. The FDA "Black Box" Warning on Antidepressant Suicide Risk in Young Adults: More Harm Than Benefits?. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:294. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00294 National Alliance on Mental Illness. Sertraline (Zoloft). Wang SM, Han C, Bahk WM, et al. Addressing the Side Effects of Contemporary Antidepressant Drugs: A Comprehensive Review. Chonnam Med J. 2018;54(2):101-112. doi:10.4068/cmj.2018.54.2.101 Gabriel M, Sharma V. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. CMAJ. 2017;189(21):E747. doi:10.1503/cmaj.160991 Hosenbocus S, Chahal R. SSRIs and SNRIs: A review of the Discontinuation Syndrome in Children and Adolescents. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011;20(1):60-7. By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Phobias Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.