Understanding the Side Effects of Zoloft (Sertraline)

An Antidepressant Used to Treat Depression and Anxiety

Zoloft (sertraline) is a type of antidepressant medication commonly used to treat depression and anxiety. It belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin (the "feel good" neurotransmitter) so that more is available in the system. Zoloft is among the most prescribed psychiatric drugs in the U.S.

side effects of zoloft
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Most Common Zoloft Side Effects

As with all medications, Zoloft may cause certain unwanted side effects. The most commonly experienced in those taking Zoloft include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Increased sweating
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Sexual problems, including loss of libido and inability to ejaculate or orgasm
  • Sleepiness
  • Tremors
  • Weight gain

Gastrointestinal problems can occur quite frequently in people taking Zoloft. Others are far less common but may be more distressing. While the loss of libido and orgasmic difficulties can affect both men and women, men are especially impacted by physical symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

These sexual issues occur in a small percentage of men taking Zoloft. People can sometimes minimize these symptoms by taking Zoloft immediately after sex or adjusting treatment with the advice of their doctor.

Weight Gain

Another potential side effect of Zoloft is weight gain. A long-term study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2018 found that for up to six years after starting treatment, people taking antidepressants such as Zoloft were 21% more likely to experience at least a 5% weight gain than those not taking the drugs. Participants were also 29% more likely to move up a weight category—from normal to overweight or from overweight to obese—than those not on antidepressants.

While experts aren’t still trying to figure out the link, some theories do exist. For one, SSRIs can trigger changes in your metabolism, increasing appetite and causing the body to burn off calories less efficiently. Also, many people lose their appetite and lose weight when they’re depressed, so it may just be a result of them feeling better when they’re on the drug.

If you're experiencing weight gain, don't stop taking the drug on your own. Instead, talk to your doctor about switching to an antidepressant associated with weight loss or making any eating or exercise changes to help stave off the pounds while taking Zoloft.

Less Common Side Effects

While far less common, there are some serious side effects associated with Zoloft use. In some cases, Zoloft may trigger or exacerbate psychiatric symptoms.

Call your doctor if you experience any new or worsening psychiatric symptoms, including:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Impulsiveness
  • Memory loss
  • Symptoms associated with psychosis, major depression, or mania

You should seek immediate medical assistance if you experience any of the following:

  • Black or bloody stools
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Fever over 100o F
  • Seizure
  • Severe or persistent headache
  • Skin reactions
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for 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.

Side Effects in Children and Adolescents

When prescribed in children or adolescents, Zoloft can cause a slightly different range of side effects, some of which are less common in adults.

Advise your pediatrician if your child experiences any of the following:

  • Abnormal or agitated muscle movements
  • Frequent urination
  • Heavy menstrual period
  • Nosebleeds
  • Slowed growth
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Weight changes

A Word From Verywell

The type and severity of Zoloft side effects will vary from person to person. For most, the symptoms tend to be minimal and generally improve over time. If you find you are unable to cope with the side effects, call your doctor immediately.

There may be strategies your doctor can offer (including dose adjustment or adjunctive therapies) to help you better adjust to the prescribed treatment. The important thing to avoid is stopping or changing treatment without input from your doctor.

Not only might you undermine the goals of treatment, but you may also experience a condition known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (ADS) which can manifest with symptoms of sertraline withdrawal (including muscle aches, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, and abnormal sensations). ADS can occur as early as six weeks after starting therapy.

3 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.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Highlight of Prescribing Information: Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) tablets, for oral use. December 2016.

  2. Gafoor R, Booth HP, Gulliford MC. Antidepressant utilisation and incidence of weight gain during 10 years' follow-up: population based cohort study. BMJ. 2018;361:k1951. doi:10.1136/bmj.k1951

  3. Herstowska M, Komorowska O, Cubała WJ, Jakuszkowiak-Wojten K, Gałuszko-Węgielnik M, Landowski J. Severe skin complications in patients treated with antidepressants: a literature review. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2014;31(2):92–97. doi:10.5114/pdia.2014.40930

Additional Reading

By Nancy Schimelpfening
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.