Zoloft is a brand-name prescription medication that’s prescribed for several mental health conditions. Specifically, it’s FDA-approved for use in adults to treat:

Zoloft is also FDA-approved to treat OCD in children ages 6 years and older.

Drug details

Zoloft is an antidepressant that belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The active drug in Zoloft is sertraline.

Zoloft is available in the following forms and strengths:

Effectiveness

For information about the effectiveness of Zoloft, see the “Zoloft uses” section below.

Zoloft is a brand-name drug that contains the active drug sertraline. This active drug is also available as a generic medication. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication.

The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. Generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

If you’re interested in taking the generic form of Zoloft, talk with your doctor. They can tell you if it comes in forms and strengths that can be used for your condition.

Zoloft can cause mild or serious side effects. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that may occur while taking Zoloft. These lists do not include all possible side effects.

For more information about the possible side effects of Zoloft, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you tips on how to manage any side effects that may be concerning or bothersome.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Zoloft, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Below is a partial list of mild side effects of Zoloft. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or view Zoloft’s prescribing information.

Mild side effects of Zoloft can include:

Most of these side effects may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. However, if they become more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* For more information about allergic reaction and Zoloft, see “Allergic reaction” below.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Zoloft aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include:

  • Increased risk of bleeding. Symptoms can include:
    • bruising easily
    • nosebleeds
    • bleeding gums
    • passing black, tarlike, or bloody stools
  • Serotonin syndrome (a dangerous condition caused by a buildup of the chemical serotonin in your body). Symptoms can include:
    • fast heartbeat
    • stiff muscles, tremors, twitching, or coordination problems
    • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
    • agitation (feeling annoyed, nervous, or aggravated)
    • hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t real)
  • Manic episode. Symptoms can include:
    • excessive levels of excitement, happiness, or activity
    • racing thoughts
    • talking more or faster than usual
    • severe trouble sleeping
    • impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Closed-angle glaucoma (sudden buildup of pressure inside your eye). Symptoms can include:
    • eye pain or redness
    • blurry vision
    • seeing halos around lights
    • sudden severe headache
    • nausea
  • Hyponatremia (low level of sodium in your blood). Symptoms can include:
    • headache
    • confusion
    • memory problems
    • trouble concentrating
    • weakness and unsteadiness, which can lead to falls
  • Long QT syndrome (a condition that affects the heart’s electrical activity) and torsade de pointes (an irregular heart rhythm). Symptoms can include:
    • feeling like your heart is racing, pounding, or skipping beats
    • dizziness
    • fainting
  • Seizures. Symptoms can include:
    • feeling confused or dazed
    • stiff muscles
    • shaking or jerking
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors.*
  • Severe allergic reaction.†

* Zoloft has a boxed warning for this side effect. This is a serious warning from the FDA. To learn more, see the “Zoloft precautions” section below.
† For details about allergic reaction and Zoloft, see “Allergic reaction” below.

Side effects in children

Zoloft is FDA-approved to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in children ages 6 years and older. It’s important to note that antidepressant medications such as Zoloft can also increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in some children. In fact, the medication has a boxed warning about this risk. For more information, see the “Zoloft precautions” section below.

In clinical trials, side effects reported in children who took Zoloft were generally similar to side effects reported in adults who took the drug. Examples of these side effects are listed above.

One of Zoloft’s side effects is reduced appetite. In children, this may lead to weight loss. It could also affect the child’s growth in terms of their expected height and weight for their age.

It’s not known whether taking Zoloft for long periods of time affects long-term growth and development in children. If your child needs to take Zoloft for longer than a few months, their doctor will likely monitor their height and weight.

Your child’s doctor can tell you more about possible side effects of Zoloft.

ALLERGIC REACTION

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Zoloft. This was a rare side effect in clinical trials of this drug.

Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing

Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Zoloft, as the reaction could become severe. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Zoloft is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Other drugs are available that can treat your condition. Some may be a better fit for you than others. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to Zoloft, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that may work well for you.

Note: Some of the drugs listed here are used off-label to treat these specific conditions. Off-label drug use is when a drug that’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is prescribed for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

Alternatives for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat OCD include:

Alternatives for depression

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat depression include:

Alternatives for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat PTSD include:

  • fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • paroxetine (Paxil)
  • venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • nefazodone
  • imipramine (Tofranil)
  • phenelzine (Nardil)

Alternatives for social anxiety disorder

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat social anxiety disorder include:

  • other SSRI antidepressants such as:
    • citalopram (Celexa)
    • escitalopram (Lexapro)
    • fluvoxamine (Luvox)
    • paroxetine (Paxil)
  • SNRI antidepressants such as:
    • venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • benzodiazepines such as:
  • pregabalin (Lyrica)
  • hydroxyzine (Vistaril)

Alternatives for panic disorder

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat panic disorder include:

  • other SSRI antidepressants such as:
    • citalopram (Celexa)
    • fluoxetine (Prozac)
    • paroxetine (Paxil)
  • SNRI antidepressants such as:
    • venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • tricyclic antidepressants such as:
    • amitriptyline
    • imipramine (Tofranil)
  • benzodiazepines such as:
    • alprazolam (Xanax)
    • clonazepam (Klonopin)
    • lorazepam (Ativan)

Alternatives for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat PMDD include:

  • other SSRI antidepressants such as:
    • citalopram (Celexa)
    • escitalopram (Lexapro)
    • fluoxetine (Prozac)
    • paroxetine (Paxil)
  • SNRI antidepressants such as:
    • venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • birth control pills such as:
    • drospirenone/ethinyl estradiol (Yaz, Nikki, others)
    • levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol (Ayuna, Levonest, others)
  • gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs such as:
    • nafarelin (Synarel)

The Zoloft dosage your doctor prescribes will depend on several factors. These include:

  • the type and severity of the condition you’re taking Zoloft to treat
  • your age
  • your liver function
  • other medical conditions you may have

Typically, your doctor will start you on a low dosage. Then they’ll adjust it over time to reach the amount that’s right for you. Your doctor will ultimately prescribe the smallest dosage that provides the desired effect.

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

Zoloft oral tablet strengths (25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg)

Zoloft is available as an oral tablet. It comes in three strengths:

  • 25 milligrams (25 mg)
  • 50 mg
  • 100 mg

Zoloft oral solution strength (20 mg/mL)

Zoloft is also available as an oral solution. It comes in a strength of 20 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL).

The oral solution is often prescribed for children. And if you have trouble swallowing Zoloft oral tablets, your doctor may recommend this form instead.

Lowest and maximum doses for Zoloft

The lowest and maximum doses for Zoloft depend on your age and the condition you’re taking Zoloft to treat. These doses are described below.

Dosage for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

The typical starting dosage for OCD in adults is 50 mg once per day. This also tends to be the lowest dosage prescribed for OCD in adults.

If needed, your doctor may gradually increase your dosage. They’ll usually do this at weekly intervals until the dosage that’s right for you is reached. The standard effective dosage range for OCD is 50 mg to 200 mg per day.

The maximum recommended dosage of Zoloft for OCD in adults is 200 mg per day.

Dosage for depression

The typical starting dosage for depression in adults is 50 mg once per day. This also tends to be the lowest dosage prescribed for this condition.

If needed, your doctor may gradually increase your dosage. They’ll usually do this at weekly intervals until the dosage that’s right for you is reached. The standard effective dosage range for depression is 50 mg to 200 mg per day.

The maximum recommended dosage of Zoloft for depression in adults is 200 mg per day.

Dosage for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The typical starting dosage for PTSD in adults is 25 mg once per day. This also tends to be the lowest dosage prescribed for this condition.

If needed, your doctor may gradually increase your dosage. They’ll usually do this at weekly intervals until the dosage that’s right for you is reached. The standard effective dosage range for PTSD is 50 mg to 200 mg per day.

The maximum recommended dosage of Zoloft for PTSD in adults is 200 mg per day.

Dosage for social anxiety disorder

The typical starting dosage for social anxiety disorder in adults is 25 mg once per day. This also tends to be the lowest dosage prescribed for this condition.

If needed, your doctor may gradually increase your dosage. They’ll usually do this at weekly intervals until the dosage that’s right for you is reached. The standard effective dosage range for social anxiety disorder is 50 mg to 200 mg per day.

The maximum recommended dosage of Zoloft for social anxiety disorder in adults is 200 mg per day.

Dosage for panic disorder

The typical starting dosage for panic disorder in adults is 25 mg once per day. This also tends to be the lowest dosage prescribed for this condition.

If needed, your doctor may gradually increase your dosage. They’ll usually do this at weekly intervals until the dosage that’s right for you is reached. The standard effective dosage range for panic disorder is 50 mg to 200 mg per day.

The maximum recommended dosage of Zoloft for panic disorder in adults is 200 mg per day.

Dosage for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

The typical starting dosage for PMDD in adults is 50 mg once per day. (This also tends to be the lowest dosage prescribed for this condition.) Your doctor may recommend taking this dosage of Zoloft every day throughout your menstrual cycle. Or they may recommend taking it just for the 2 weeks before your period each month.

If needed, your doctor may gradually increase your dosage with each menstrual cycle until the dosage that’s right for you is reached.

If you take Zoloft every day for PMDD, the maximum recommended dosage is 150 mg per day.

If you take Zoloft only for the 2 weeks before your period each month, the maximum recommended dosage is 100 mg per day. When you start treatment each month, your doctor will usually advise taking 50 mg per day for 3 days and then increase the dosage to 100 mg per day.

Children’s dosage

Zoloft is approved to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in children ages 6 years and older.

Here are the typical starting dosages for children:

  • ages 6 to 12 years: 25 mg once per day
  • ages 13 to 17 years: 50 mg once per day

These tend to be the lowest dosages prescribed for OCD in children.

If needed, your child’s doctor may gradually increase the dosage. They’ll typically do this at weekly intervals until the dosage that’s right for the child is reached. The usual effective dosage range for OCD in children is 50 mg to 200 mg per day.

The maximum recommended dosage of Zoloft for OCD in children is 200 mg per day.

What if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, take the missed dose as soon as possible, unless it’s nearly time for your next dose. In this case, skip the missed dose and take your next dose as usual when scheduled. If you’re unsure about whether or not to take a missed dose, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Keep in mind that you should not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose. You also should not take extra doses to make up for missed doses. Doing so can increase your risk of side effects. (For information about side effects, see the “Zoloft side effects” section above.)

To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or using a timer. You could also download a reminder app on your phone.

Will I need to take this drug long term?

Yes, you usually will. However, the length of your treatment depends on the condition Zoloft is treating.

OCD: The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has guidelines for OCD treatment. The guidelines recommend continuing to take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as Zoloft for either:

  • at least 1 to 2 years after your symptoms get better or
  • as a long-term treatment

This helps reduce the risk of OCD symptoms returning.

Depression: The Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense have guidelines for treatment for depression. The guidelines recommend continuing to take antidepressants such as Zoloft for 4 to 9 months after your symptoms ease. This helps reduce the risk of depression returning.

If you’ve had several episodes of depression, the condition is more likely to come back if you stop taking antidepressants. In this case, your doctor will likely recommend that you keep taking Zoloft long term.

PTSD: It’s not currently known how long antidepressants should be continued for PTSD. Your doctor will recommend how long you should continue to take Zoloft.

Social anxiety disorder: The National Institutes of Health has recommendations regarding the treatment of social anxiety disorder. It’s advised to keep taking antidepressants such as Zoloft for at least 12 months after your symptoms improve. This helps reduce the risk of symptoms returning.

Panic disorder: The AAFP also has guidelines for the treatment of panic disorder. It’s recommended to keep taking antidepressants such as Zoloft for at least 6 to 12 months after your symptoms ease. This helps reduce the risk of panic attacks returning.

PMDD: Currently, there aren’t specific guidelines for how long PMDD treatment should be continued. Your doctor will recommend how long you should take Zoloft for this condition.

Zoloft can interact with several other medications. It can also interact with certain supplements as well as certain foods.

Different interactions can cause different effects. For instance, some interactions can interfere with how well a drug works. Other interactions can increase side effects or make them more severe. Drug-condition interactions can also cause certain effects. For information about these interactions, see the “Zoloft precautions” section below.

Zoloft and other medications

Below is a list of medications that can interact with Zoloft. This list does not contain all drugs that may interact with Zoloft.

Before taking Zoloft, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you use. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.

If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Drugs typically not prescribed with Zoloft

Doctors typically will not prescribe Zoloft with the following.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Taking Zoloft with an MAOI can cause a serious side effect called serotonin syndrome. This is a dangerous condition caused by a buildup of the chemical serotonin in your body. Examples of MAOI drugs include:

  • MAOI antidepressants* such as:
    • phenelzine (Nardil)
    • isocarboxazid (Marplan)
    • tranylcypromine (Parnate)
    • selegiline (Emsam)
  • linezolid (Zyvox), which is an antibiotic
  • methylene blue (ProvayBlue), which is a blood disorder treatment

The antipsychotic pimozide. Taking Zoloft with pimozide can increase your risk of an irregular heart rhythm.

Disulfiram. The drug disulfiram is prescribed to help discourage people with alcohol use disorder from drinking alcohol. Zoloft oral solution contains alcohol. Taking disulfiram with Zoloft can cause serious side effects, such as vomiting, flushing, dizziness, and throbbing headaches. Due to the risk, doctors typically won’t prescribe disulfiram with Zoloft.

* Your doctor usually won’t prescribe Zoloft if you’ve taken an MAOI antidepressant in the last 14 days. And they likely won’t prescribe an MAOI antidepressant until at least 14 days after you’ve stopped taking Zoloft.

Other types of drugs that can interact with Zoloft

Other types of drugs that can interact with Zoloft include the following.

Serotonergic drugs. These drugs can increase the level of serotonin in your brain. Taking Zoloft with these drugs can increase your risk of serotonin syndrome. Examples of serotonergic drugs include:

Blood thinners. Blood thinners are drugs used to treat and help prevent blood clots. Taking Zoloft with blood thinners can increase your risk of bleeding. Examples of blood thinner drugs include:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are drugs that reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Taking Zoloft with NSAIDs can increase your risk of bleeding. Examples of NSAIDs include:

Diuretics. Diuretics are drugs used for fluid retention, high blood pressure, and heart failure. Taking Zoloft with diuretics can increase your risk of hyponatremia (low level of sodium in your blood). It can also increase your risk of irregular heart rhythms. Examples of diuretic drugs include:

Drugs that can cause long QT syndrome. Long QT syndrome is a condition that affects the heart’s electrical activity. Certain drugs can cause this side effect. Taking Zoloft with one of these medications can increase your risk of long QT syndrome. Examples of these drugs include:

CYP2D6 substrates. CYP2D6 substrates are drugs that are broken down by an enzyme (type of protein) in your liver called CYP2D6. Taking Zoloft with a CYP2D6 substrate can increase the risk of side effects from the CYP2D6 substrate. Examples of drugs that are CYP2D6 substrates include:

Certain seizure medications. Taking Zoloft with the seizure medications phenytoin (Dilantin) or fosphenytoin (Cerebyx) can increase your risk of side effects from these seizure drugs.

Zoloft and herbs and supplements

Taking Zoloft with certain herbs and supplements can increase your risk of a serious side effect called serotonin syndrome. Due to this risk, your doctor will likely not prescribe Zoloft with these herbs and supplements. Examples include St. John’s wort and tryptophan.

If you’re interested in taking other herbs or supplements with Zoloft, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist first.

Zoloft and foods

There aren’t any foods that have been specifically reported to interact with Zoloft. If you have any questions about eating certain foods with Zoloft, talk with your doctor.

Zoloft and lab tests

Zoloft can cause false-positive results in urine drug tests for benzodiazepines. This means that while you’re taking Zoloft, your urine can test positive for benzodiazepines, even if you didn’t take these drugs. Your urine can also test positive for these medications for several days after stopping Zoloft treatment.

If you need to have a drug test during Zoloft treatment, be sure to tell the person giving you the test that you’re taking Zoloft. This information will be used when interpreting your results. If you have a positive result for benzodiazepines, a different type of test can be done to rule out the use of these drugs.

If you have any questions, talk with your doctor.

Alcohol has not been reported to interact with Zoloft. However, if you drink alcohol with Zoloft, this may increase the risk of certain Zoloft side effects. Examples of these side effects include nausea, dizziness, and sleepiness. They also include trouble sleeping and diarrhea.

It’s also important to note that consuming alcohol may worsen the symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about whether it’s safe to do so while you’re taking Zoloft.

You may wonder how Zoloft compares with other medications that are prescribed for similar uses. To find out how Zoloft compares with Lexapro, see this article.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Zoloft.

Is Zoloft addictive and a controlled substance?

No, Zoloft is not addictive, and it’s not a controlled substance.

Controlled substances are drugs that have a high risk of misuse and addiction. With drug misuse, a drug is taken in a way or for a purpose not prescribed by a doctor. Drug misuse can lead to drug addiction. With drug addiction, you feel unable to stop taking a drug, even though it’s causing harm. There are special rules regarding prescribing and supplying controlled substances to reduce these risks.

Zoloft does not have a high risk of misuse or addiction, so it’s not a controlled substance.

It is possible to have withdrawal symptoms after stopping Zoloft treatment, but this isn’t because the drug is addictive. Some people associate withdrawal symptoms with addiction, but these two things aren’t always related. To learn more about withdrawal symptoms with Zoloft, see the “Zoloft withdrawal and dependence” section below.

If you’d like more information about Zoloft, talk with your doctor.

What can I expect in the first few days of taking Zoloft and week by week?

When you start treatment with Zoloft, talk with your doctor about what to expect in the first few days and week by week. What you experience will depend on the condition you’re taking the medication to treat.

You may find that Zoloft doesn’t seem to help your condition in the beginning. However, it’s important to keep taking it as prescribed because the drug can take a few weeks to build up its effect. Your doctor will advise you on whether they’ll increase your dose in the first few weeks of treatment.

Your doctor can also tell you which of your symptoms may start to improve first. For example, if you take Zoloft for depression, you may find your appetite, sleep, and energy levels begin to get better in the first couple of weeks. However, it could take at least 4 weeks before your mood starts to improve.

If you feel like your condition is getting worse in the first few weeks of treatment, talk with your doctor right away. You should not make any changes to your prescribed dosage unless your doctor recommends doing so.

Does Zoloft have any long-term side effects?

It might. Most of Zoloft’s mild side effects get better over time as your body gets used to the medication. But some, such as sexual problems, can last for as long as you keep taking Zoloft. If you have sexual problems with Zoloft, these usually improve after stopping treatment.

If you have bothersome side effects that don’t go away as you continue to take Zoloft, talk with your doctor. They may suggest ways to manage these side effects. Or they may recommend switching to a treatment other than Zoloft.

It’s important to note that you should not suddenly stop taking Zoloft, as this can cause withdrawal symptoms. If your doctor recommends stopping Zoloft treatment, it should be done gradually. To learn more about this, see the “Zoloft withdrawal and dependence” section below.

Should I expect hair loss during Zoloft treatment?

Hair loss has been reported in some people taking Zoloft, but this is rare. You should not expect to have this side effect. Most people take Zoloft without it having any effect on their hair.

If you do have hair loss during Zoloft treatment, talk with your doctor. They can investigate the possible cause and recommend ways to manage the problem.

Zoloft is an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder and panic disorder, which are types of anxiety disorders. The drug can also reduce anxiety associated with other mental health conditions that Zoloft treats. For example, the medication can help reduce anxiety that’s a symptom of:

Zoloft doses for anxiety disorders are usually lower than doses for other mental health conditions to start. Your doctor may increase your dosage gradually over time. They’ll prescribe the dosage that’s right for you.

If you have new or worsening anxiety while taking Zoloft, talk with your doctor right away.

Zoloft isn’t known to cause weight gain. This side effect wasn’t reported in clinical trials of the drug. However, increased appetite was reported in rare cases. And this could lead to weight gain in some people.

Zoloft is more likely to cause reduced appetite. This was one of the more common side effects in clinical trials of the medication. Weight loss wasn’t reported in these trials. However, weight loss has been reported in some children taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. And Zoloft is an SSRI.

It’s important to note that mental health conditions such as depression often affect appetite and weight. If Zoloft helps improve your condition, you may find that you have changes in your appetite and weight. If you have changes that concern you, talk with your doctor.

You may be curious how Zoloft compares with other drugs that are prescribed for similar uses. If you’d like information about how Zoloft and Prozac compare, see this article.

There haven’t been clinical trials on whether Zoloft can cause drug dependence. With drug dependence, your body relies on the effect of a drug to function as usual. If you’re dependent on a drug, you may have withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it. It’s important to note that drug dependence is not the same as drug addiction. With drug addiction, you feel unable to stop taking a drug.

Suddenly stopping treatment with Zoloft can cause withdrawal symptoms. Examples of these may include:

  • nausea
  • sweating
  • feeling uneasy, irritable, or agitated
  • dizziness
  • tingling, burning, or electric shock sensations
  • tremors
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • headache
  • mood shifts
  • trouble sleeping
  • lethargy (lack of motivation and energy)

To avoid withdrawal symptoms, it’s important that you do not suddenly stop taking Zoloft. “Coming off” Zoloft slowly can help to avoid withdrawal symptoms. If you and your doctor agree that you should stop taking the drug, your doctor will give you advice on slowly weaning off Zoloft. They’ll usually recommend slowly reducing your dosage over several weeks or even months. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Zoloft to treat certain conditions. Zoloft may also be used off-label for other conditions. Off-label drug use is when an FDA-approved drug is prescribed for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

Zoloft for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Zoloft is FDA-approved to treat obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in adults as well as children ages 6 years and older.

OCD explained

OCD is a mental health condition that causes obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are uncontrollable, repetitive thoughts or mental images that cause you anxiety. For example, you may worry excessively about order, cleanliness, germs, or losing control. Or you may have unwanted intrusive thoughts about sex, religion, or harm that affects yourself or others.

Compulsions are uncontrollable, repetitive mental or physical actions that you perform to reduce anxiety caused by obsessions. For example, you may have repeated urges to count, put objects in a certain order, wash your hands, or check items such as locks.

With OCD, obsessions and compulsions can take up a lot of your time and affect your daily life and personal relationships.

To learn more about OCD, visit our mental health hub.

Effectiveness for OCD

Zoloft is an effective treatment for OCD. To find out how the drug performed in clinical trials, see Zoloft’s prescribing information.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends treating OCD with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug such as Zoloft.

Zoloft for depression

Zoloft is FDA-approved to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) in adults. MDD may also be called clinical depression. But it’s usually simply known as depression.

Depression explained

Depression is a common mental health condition that causes a persistent low mood and changes in how you feel, think, and behave. It can have a serious impact on your daily life and personal relationships.

Symptoms of depression can include:

  • feeling continually sad, gloomy, or hopeless
  • lacking energy
  • losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • eating more or less than usual
  • having changes in your sleep patterns, such as problems falling asleep or waking earlier than usual
  • feeling irritable or anxious
  • having trouble concentrating
  • having suicidal thoughts

You can find more information about your condition in our depression hub.

Effectiveness for depression

Zoloft is an effective treatment for depression. To find out how the drug performed in clinical trials, see Zoloft’s prescribing information.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense recommend taking an SSRI antidepressant, such as Zoloft, as one of the first drug options for treating depression.

Zoloft for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Zoloft is FDA-approved to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults.

PTSD explained

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing a traumatic or shocking event. It can cause you to have flashbacks of the event, trouble sleeping, and anxiety. PTSD can also lead to problems with work and personal relationships.

Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • having flashbacks or nightmares
  • having trouble sleeping
  • feeling tense, anxious, or fearful
  • feeling irritable, angry, or guilty
  • avoiding situations that remind you of the event
  • having trouble concentrating
  • losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • feeling emotionally or mentally numb

To learn more about PTSD, visit our mental health hub.

Effectiveness for PTSD

Zoloft is an effective treatment for PTSD. To find out how the drug performed in clinical trials, see Zoloft’s prescribing information.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense recommend sertraline (the active drug in Zoloft) as a treatment option for PTSD.

Zoloft for social anxiety disorder

Zoloft is FDA-approved to treat social anxiety disorder in adults. Social anxiety disorder is sometimes also called social phobia.

Social anxiety disorder explained

Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes irrational and uncontrollable fear, and anxiety about being judged in social situations. This can lead you to avoid work, school, or other social situations.

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include:

  • feeling excessively worried or fearful about meeting new people
  • feeling excessively worried or fearful about speaking, eating, or drinking in front of people
  • sweating, trembling, blushing, or having a fast heartbeat or nausea in social situations
  • having trouble speaking or feeling as though your mind has gone blank
  • feeling self-conscious, embarrassed, or awkward in front of others
  • having a rigid posture, avoiding eye contact, or speaking very quietly

To learn more about social anxiety disorder, visit our anxiety hub.

Effectiveness for social anxiety disorder

Zoloft is an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder. To find out how the drug performed in clinical trials, see Zoloft’s prescribing information.

SSRIs such as Zoloft are usually one of the first drugs recommended for treating social anxiety disorder.

Zoloft for panic disorder

Zoloft is FDA-approved to treat panic disorder in adults.

Panic disorder explained

Panic disorder is a mental health condition that causes unexpected and recurrent panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden feeling of intense fear that causes physical symptoms. With panic disorder, you become worried and fearful about having another panic attack. This can lead you to avoid places or situations that you think might trigger a panic attack.

A panic attack can cause symptoms such as:

  • trembling
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • a pounding heartbeat
  • trouble breathing

To learn more about panic disorder, visit our anxiety hub.

Effectiveness for panic disorder

Zoloft is an effective treatment for panic disorder. To find out how the drug performed in clinical trials, see Zoloft’s prescribing information.

The AAFP recommends taking an SSRI drug such as Zoloft as one of the first drug options for treating panic disorder.

Zoloft for premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Zoloft is FDA-approved to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in adults.

Note: Zoloft is not approved for PMDD in teens younger than age 18 years. Doctors are unlikely to prescribe it to treat PMDD in this age group.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder explained

PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMDD causes changes in the way you feel, think, and behave that affect your ability to function as usual. These changes can have a significant impact on your daily life, work, and personal relationships.

Symptoms usually occur the week before your period. They may include:

  • having severe mood shifts
  • feeling depressed or hopeless
  • feeling tense, anxious, or overwhelmed
  • feeling irritable or angry
  • feeling tired or lacking energy
  • losing interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • having trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • having trouble concentrating
  • overeating

To learn more about PMDD, visit our women’s health hub.

Effectiveness for premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Zoloft is an effective treatment for PMDD. To find out how the drug performed in clinical trials, see the drug’s prescribing information.

The AAFP recommends SSRI drugs such as Zoloft as an option for treating PMDD.

Zoloft and children

Zoloft is FDA-approved for one use in children: to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The drug is approved for this use in children ages 6 years and older. It’s important to note that Zoloft can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children. In fact, the drug has a boxed warning about this risk. A boxed warning is a serious warning from the FDA. To learn more, see the “Zoloft precautions” section below.

Zoloft is not FDA-approved for any other uses in children. However, doctors may sometimes prescribe the medication off-label to treat depression or certain anxiety disorders in children. Off-label drug use is when an FDA-approved drug is prescribed for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

If you have questions about your child taking Zoloft for any use, be sure to talk with their doctor.

The risks of taking Zoloft while pregnant may depend on how far along you are in your pregnancy.

Overall, studies suggest that Zoloft, when taken during the first 3 months of pregnancy, does not cause congenital anomalies. (These are commonly known as birth defects.) However, when Zoloft is taken in the last 3 months of pregnancy, the drug could cause problems in newborns that may require hospital treatment. Examples of these problems include:

  • breathing problems
  • feeding problems
  • seizures
  • problems controlling body temperature
  • low blood sugar
  • shaking
  • floppiness or stiffness
  • constant crying

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking Zoloft during pregnancy. It’s important to consider that stopping Zoloft treatment could cause your mental health condition to return or worsen. This may also carry risks for the fetus.

If you do take Zoloft during pregnancy, you should take the tablet form of the drug. Zoloft oral solution contains small amounts of alcohol, which could be harmful to a fetus.

It’s important to note that you should not stop taking Zoloft unless you first talk with your doctor. Suddenly stopping Zoloft treatment can cause withdrawal symptoms. To learn more about this, see the “Zoloft withdrawal and dependence” section above.

The risks of taking Zoloft while pregnant may depend on how far along you are in your pregnancy. If you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your birth control needs while you’re taking Zoloft.

For more information about taking Zoloft during pregnancy, see the “Zoloft and pregnancy” section above.

It’s not known for sure whether it’s safe to breastfeed while taking Zoloft. The drug can pass into breast milk in small amounts.

If you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor about the best way to feed your child while taking Zoloft. It may be possible to breastfeed while you take Zoloft, providing that your child is carefully monitored for side effects.

As with all medications, the cost of Zoloft can vary. The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Keep in mind that you may be able to get a 90-day supply of Zoloft. If approved by your insurance company, getting a 90-day supply of the drug could reduce your number of trips to the pharmacy and help lower the cost. If you’re interested in this option, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company.

Before approving coverage for Zoloft, your insurance company may require you to get prior authorization. This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the prior authorization request and decide if the drug will be covered.

If you’re not sure whether you’ll need to get prior authorization for Zoloft, contact your insurance company.

Financial and insurance assistance

If you need financial support to pay for Zoloft, or if you need help understanding your insurance coverage, help is available.

A savings card and other resources are available for Zoloft. For more information and to find out if you’re eligible for support, call 855-220-9547 or visit the drug manufacturer’s website.

To learn more about saving money on prescriptions, check out this article.

Mail-order pharmacies

Zoloft may be available through a mail-order pharmacy. Using this service may help lower the drug’s cost and allow you to get your medication without leaving home.

If recommended by your doctor, you may be able to receive a 90-day supply of Zoloft, so there’s less concern about running out of the medication. If you’re interested in this option, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company. Some Medicare plans may help cover the cost of mail-order medications.

If you don’t have insurance, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about online pharmacy options.

Generic version

Zoloft is available in a generic form called sertraline. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. And generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs. To find out how the cost of sertraline compares with the cost of Zoloft, talk with your pharmacist.

If your doctor has prescribed Zoloft and you’re interested in taking sertraline instead, talk with your doctor. They may have a preference for one version or the other. You’ll also need to check your insurance plan, as it may only cover one or the other.

You should take Zoloft according to the instructions your doctor gives you. The drug is available in two forms: oral tablets and an oral solution.

Zoloft oral tablets should be swallowed. Taking them with water can make swallowing easier.

Zoloft oral solution should be diluted before swallowing it. To dilute the solution:

  • Use the dropper supplied with the medication to measure the prescribed dose of Zoloft.
  • Mix the dose into half a cup (4 ounces) of water, ginger ale, lemon or lime soda, lemonade, or orange juice.* After mixing, the liquid may look slightly hazy. This is normal.
  • Drink all the mixture right away. You should not save it for later.

* You should not use any other liquids to dilute Zoloft.

When to take

You’ll typically take Zoloft once per day.

If the medication makes you feel sleepy, take your dose at bedtime. If the medication causes trouble sleeping, take your dose in the morning.

Whenever you decide to take your doses, try to stick to the same time each day. Taking the medication around the same time of day helps keep a steady level of the drug in your body. This helps Zoloft work effectively.

To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or using a timer. You could also download a reminder app on your phone.

Accessible labels and containers

If your prescription label is hard to read, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Some pharmacies offer labels that have large print, braille, or a code you scan with a smartphone to convert text to speech. If your local pharmacy doesn’t have these options, your doctor or pharmacist may be able to direct you to one that does.

If you have trouble opening medication bottles, ask your pharmacist if they can put Zoloft in an easy-open container. They also may be able to recommend tools that can make it simpler to open lids.

Should Zoloft be taken with food?

You can take Zoloft with or without food.

Can Zoloft be crushed, split, or chewed?

Zoloft tablets are scored and can be split. The drug’s manufacturer doesn’t say whether the tablets can be crushed or chewed.

If you have trouble swallowing Zoloft tablets, see this article. You can also talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Zoloft is used to treat the following mental health conditions:

What happens with mental health conditions?

The causes of mental health conditions are complex and not fully understood. Many different psychological, social, genetic, and physical factors are likely to be involved. These factors may cause changes in the pathways in your brain that affect the way you process information and view the world. These changes may lead to the symptoms of a mental health condition.

What does Zoloft do?

Zoloft is a type of antidepressant drug called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It works by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in your brain called serotonin.

Neurotransmitters are natural body chemicals that pass signals between nerve cells. Serotonin passes signals in nerve pathways that are involved in managing your mood, emotions, thoughts, and behavior.

Doctors don’t fully understand how increasing the level of serotonin in your brain helps treat mental health conditions. However, boosting serotonin may improve the function of the nerve pathways involved in managing your mood, emotions, thoughts, and behavior. In turn, this may relieve the symptoms of mental health conditions.

How long does it take to work?

Zoloft doesn’t start working right away. It may take a few weeks for the medication to build up its effect. Some of your symptoms may start to ease before others.

It’s important to keep taking Zoloft as prescribed, even if it doesn’t seem to make much difference at first. If you feel like your condition is getting worse in the first few weeks of treatment, talk with your doctor right away. You should not make any changes to your prescribed dosage unless your doctor recommends this.

This drug comes with several precautions. These are considered drug-condition interactions.

FDA warning: Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

This drug has a boxed warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Antidepressants such as Zoloft may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in some children and adults younger than 25 years. The risk is likely higher in the first few months after starting treatment and after changes in dosage.

While taking Zoloft, you should watch for any new or sudden changes in your mood, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Parents or caregivers of children taking Zoloft should also watch for these changes in the child. Call your doctor right away if you or a child taking Zoloft develops:

  • new or worsening depression
  • new or worsening anxiety or panic attacks
  • new or increased irritability or aggressiveness
  • agitation or feeling unable to be still
  • new or increased trouble sleeping
  • extreme levels of excitement and activity, or talking very fast
  • impulsive behavior
  • new or increased thoughts about suicide
  • any other new or sudden changes in mood, feelings, thoughts, or behaviors

If you have any questions about this boxed warning, talk with your doctor.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Other precautions

Before taking Zoloft, talk with your doctor about your health history. Zoloft may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors affecting your health. These include the ones mentioned below.

Note: For more information about the potential negative effects of Zoloft, see the “Zoloft side effects” section above.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Zoloft or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe it. Taking Zoloft could cause another allergic reaction. Ask your doctor about other medications that may be better options.

Bipolar disorder or mania. If you or a family member have bipolar disorder or mania, taking Zoloft may increase your risk of a manic episode. Before starting Zoloft treatment, talk with your doctor about any mental health problems you or your immediate family have had. They can advise you whether Zoloft is safe for you.

Seizures. Zoloft may increase your risk of having a seizure. If you have epilepsy or had seizures in the past, talk with your doctor. They can advise you on whether Zoloft or a different treatment is best.

Bleeding problems. Zoloft may increase your risk of bleeding. If you have or have had bleeding problems, such as hemophilia or a bleeding stomach ulcer, talk with your doctor. They can help determine whether Zoloft is safe for you.

Closed-angle glaucoma. In rare cases, Zoloft can cause closed-angle glaucoma. You may have a raised risk of this side effect if you were born with eye angles that are narrower than usual. If you’re unsure whether you have narrow eye angles, talk with your doctor. They may recommend getting an eye exam before starting Zoloft.

Low sodium level. Zoloft can lower the level of sodium in your blood. If your level is already low, Zoloft could decrease it further. You may have a higher risk of this side effect if you’re age 65 years or older or take a diuretic medication. You may also have an increased risk if you become dehydrated (due to vomiting or diarrhea, for example). If you have a low blood sodium level, your doctor can help decide if Zoloft is right for you.

Liver problems. Your liver is responsible for breaking down Zoloft in your body. If you have liver problems, Zoloft could build up in your system. This could increase your risk of side effects. If you have liver problems, your doctor may prescribe a Zoloft dosage that’s lower than usual.

Heart problems. In rare cases, Zoloft may cause arrhythmia. You may have an increased risk of this side effect if you have certain heart problems, such as heart failure or a slow or irregular heartbeat. You may also have an increased risk if you or anyone in your family have or have had long QT syndrome.

Before starting Zoloft treatment, talk with your doctor about any heart problems you or your immediate family have or have had. Your doctor can advise you on whether Zoloft is safe for you.

Pregnancy. The risks of taking Zoloft while pregnant may depend on how far along you are in your pregnancy. For more information, see the “Zoloft and pregnancy” section above.

Breastfeeding. It’s not known for sure if it’s safe to breastfeed while taking Zoloft. For more information, see the “Zoloft and breastfeeding” section above.

Taking more than the recommended dosage of Zoloft can lead to serious side effects. Do not take more Zoloft than your doctor recommends. (For information about the recommended dosages of Zoloft, see the “Zoloft dosage” section above.)

Overdose symptoms

Symptoms of an overdose can include:

  • abnormal heart rhythm
  • fast heartbeat
  • sweating or flushing
  • stiff muscles, tremors, twitching, or coordination problems
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • agitation (feeling annoyed, nervous, or aggravated)
  • hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t real)
  • seizures
  • high blood pressure
  • coma

What to do in case of overdose

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor. You can also call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use its online tool. However, if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

When you get Zoloft from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on the container. This date is typically 1 year from the date they dispensed the medication.

The expiration date helps guarantee that the medication is effective during this time. The current stance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to avoid taking expired medications. If you have unused medication that has gone past the expiration date, talk with your pharmacist about whether you might still be able to use it.

Storage

How long a medication remains good to use can depend on many factors, including how and where you store the medication.

You should store Zoloft tablets at a room temperature of 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C) in a tightly sealed container. If needed, you can store the drug at a temperature of 59°F to 86°F (15°C to 30°C) for a short period. Avoid storing this medication in areas where it could get damp or wet, such as bathrooms.

Disposal

If you no longer need to take Zoloft and have leftover medication, it’s important to dispose of it safely. This helps prevent others, including children and pets, from taking the drug by accident. It also helps keep the drug from harming the environment.

This article provides several useful tips on medication disposal. You can also ask your pharmacist for information about how to dispose of your medication.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.