When stopping antidepressants such as Zoloft, people may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, headaches, mood changes, and anxiety.

Sertraline, which is available under the brand names Zoloft and Lustral, is an antidepressant belonging to a group of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

It is one of the most common antidepressants doctors prescribe. When a person is ready to discontinue an antidepressant, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, which a doctor may refer to as discontinuation syndrome.

This article discusses Zoloft withdrawal symptoms, their duration, and when to consult a doctor.

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In 1991, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sertraline to treat the following conditions:

In some cases, a doctor may also prescribe Zoloft off-label to help treat bulimia nervosa and generalized anxiety disorder.

Similar to many other antidepressants, sertraline has a black box warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It alerts doctors and patients about potential drug effects, such as suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

It is relatively common for people to experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping or tapering antidepressants. Some research notes that 46% of individuals would describe their withdrawal symptoms as severe.

A person may experience withdrawal symptoms due to chemical changes in the brain. Stopping or reducing an antidepressant can throw the brain into a state of imbalance, which can have physical and mental effects.

Common symptoms relating to reducing sertraline dose may include:

How long do symptoms last?

Withdrawal symptoms may occur within 5 days of stopping the medication and last for 1–2 weeks. It is possible to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms lasting several months or more. The severity of symptoms will depend on how long a person has been taking sertraline.

A person always needs to speak with a doctor about any new symptoms when tapering off an antidepressant.

After a person decides they are ready to discontinue Zoloft, a doctor will usually suggest a tapering strategy to wean them off Zoloft gradually before stopping completely.

The length of time someone has been taking Zoloft will usually determine the length of the tapering strategy. Typically, tapering lasts several weeks or longer.

In other cases, a doctor may suggest switching to another antidepressant that may be easier to wean off or is less likely to cause withdrawal symptoms.

In addition to tapering, self-care may also help someone wean off Zoloft. This can include:

Counseling or therapy may help a person to understand, manage, and overcome the underlying cause of their mood disorder.

Learn more about stopping antidepressants safely.

People may mistake discontinuation symptoms for symptoms of relapse. This is particularly important to know about antidepressants, as discontinuing these medications can increase the risk of relapse for anxiety and depression.

Stopping antidepressants can result in rebound depression, which involves symptoms returning worse than before. It is important for a doctor to closely monitor and determine the difference to help prevent relapse and treatment failure.

A person should always discuss coming off antidepressants or changing dosages with their doctor before making any changes.

Individuals should talk with a doctor immediately if:

  • their withdrawal symptoms are severe, concerning, or disabling
  • they experience suicidal thoughts, thoughts of self-harm, or other concerning symptoms
  • they have symptoms of a relapse

Read about stopping antidepressants suddenly.

Sertraline, or Zoloft, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and antidepressant that doctors frequently prescribe. When a person decides to discontinue an antidepressant such as Zoloft, they need to follow their doctor’s advice on discontinuing, such as following a tapering schedule.

Common symptoms of Zoloft withdrawal include agitation, tremors, and headaches.

In addition to tapering their dose, people can also try self-care measures, such as exercising, getting regular sleep, and eating a nutritious diet, to reduce potential discontinuation symptoms further.