Zoloft Side Effects

Generic Name: sertraline

Note: This page contains side effects data for the generic drug sertraline. It is possible that some of the dosage forms included below may not apply to the brand name Zoloft.

It is possible that some side effects of Zoloft may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA here. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.

For the Consumer

Applies to sertraline: oral capsule, oral solution, oral tablet

As well as its needed effects, sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) may cause unwanted side effects that require medical attention.

If any of the following side effects occur while taking sertraline, check with your doctor immediately:

More common
  • Decreased sexual desire or ability
  • failure to discharge semen (in men)
Less common or rare
  • Aggressive reaction
  • breast tenderness or enlargement
  • confusion
  • convulsions
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • dryness of the mouth
  • fast talking and excited feelings or actions that are out of control
  • fast, pounding, irregular, or slow heartbeat
  • fever
  • inability to sit still
  • increase in body movements
  • increased sweating
  • increased thirst
  • lack of energy
  • loss of bladder control
  • mood or behavior changes
  • muscle spasm or jerking of all extremities
  • nosebleeds
  • overactive reflexes
  • racing heartbeat
  • red or purple spots on the skin
  • restlessness
  • shivering
  • skin rash, hives, or itching
  • sudden loss of consciousness
  • unusual or sudden body or facial movements or postures
  • unusual secretion of milk (in females)
Incidence not known
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
  • bleeding gums
  • blindness
  • blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  • bloating
  • blood in the urine
  • bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • blue-yellow color blindness
  • blurred vision
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • chills
  • clay-colored stools
  • cough or hoarseness
  • darkened urine
  • decreased urine output
  • decreased vision
  • depressed mood
  • difficulty with breathing
  • difficulty with speaking
  • difficulty with swallowing
  • drooling
  • dry skin and hair
  • eye pain
  • fainting
  • feeling cold
  • feeling of discomfort
  • feeling, seeing, or hearing things that are not there
  • general feeling of discomfort, illness, tiredness, or weakness
  • hair loss
  • high fever
  • high or low blood pressure
  • hoarseness or husky voice
  • hostility
  • increased clotting times
  • indigestion
  • inflamed joints
  • irritability
  • joint or muscle pain
  • large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
  • lethargy
  • lightheadedness
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of balance control
  • loss of bladder control
  • lower back or side pain
  • muscle aches
  • muscle cramps and stiffness
  • muscle trembling, jerking, or stiffness
  • muscle twitching
  • painful or difficult urination
  • pains in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
  • pale skin
  • puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • rapid weight gain
  • rash
  • red, irritated eyes
  • red, sore, or itching skin
  • right upper stomach pain and fullness
  • severe mood or mental changes
  • severe muscle stiffness
  • shuffling walk
  • sore throat
  • sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
  • sores, welting, or blisters
  • stiffness of the limbs
  • sweating
  • swelling of the face, ankles, or hands
  • swollen or painful glands
  • talking or acting with excitement you cannot control
  • tightness in the chest
  • troubled breathing
  • twisting movements of the body
  • twitching
  • uncontrolled movements, especially of the face, neck, and back
  • unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • unpleasant breath odor
  • unusual behavior
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • vomiting of blood
  • weight gain
  • yellow eyes and skin

Some sertraline side effects may not need any medical attention. As your body gets used to the medicine these side effects may disappear. Your health care professional may be able to help you prevent or reduce these side effects, but do check with them if any of the following side effects continue, or if you are concerned about them:

More common
  • Acid or sour stomach
  • belching
  • decreased appetite or weight loss
  • diarrhea or loose stools
  • heartburn
  • sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
  • stomach or abdominal cramps, gas, or pain
  • trouble sleeping
Less common
  • Agitation, anxiety, or nervousness
  • bladder pain
  • burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
  • changes in vision
  • cloudy urine
  • constipation
  • difficult, burning, or painful urination
  • flushing or redness of the skin, with feeling of warmth or heat
  • frequent urge to urinate
  • increased appetite
  • pain or tenderness around the eyes and cheekbones
  • stuffy or runny nose
Incidence not known
  • Flushed, dry skin
  • fruit-like breath odor
  • increased hunger
  • increased urination
  • redness or other discoloration of the skin
  • severe sunburn
  • swelling of the breasts (in women)
  • unexplained weight loss
  • unusual secretion of milk (in women)

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to sertraline: oral concentrate, oral tablet


Gastrointestinal side effects including nausea are the most common adverse effects caused by sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) One report has suggested that as many as 30% of patients treated with sertraline experience nausea, although most other studies have suggested a lower frequency. Other reported gastrointestinal effects include dry mouth (14% to 20%), diarrhea (17%), constipation, upper GI bleeding, and dyspepsia.

There are two cases in the literature in which the use of Lactobacillus acidophilus capsules were reported to have been very helpful in the treatment of persistent, sertraline-induced diarrhea.

A study of 26,005 antidepressant users has reported 3.6 times more upper GI bleeding episodes with the use of SSRIs relative to the population who did not receive antidepressant medications. Upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding was observed in 4.1 times more frequently in patients receiving sertraline.

Nervous system

Although sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) usually causes stimulation, cases of sedation in some patients have been reported.

In one case, a patient with an AV malformation in the region of the corpus callosum developed akathisia and a dystonic reaction following a two week exposure to sertraline.

Nearly all selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, mixed serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants cause sleep abnormalities to some extent. These antidepressants have marked dose-dependent effects on rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, causing reductions in the overall amount of REM sleep over the night and delays the first entry into REM sleep (increased REM sleep onset latency (ROL)), both in healthy subjects and depressed patients. The antidepressants that increase serotonin function appear to have the greatest effect on REM sleep. The reduction in REM sleep is greatest early in treatment, but gradually returns towards baseline during long-term therapy; however, ROL remains long. Following discontinuation of therapy the amount of REM sleep tends to rebound. Some of these drugs (i.e., bupropion, mirtazapine, nefazodone, trazodone, trimipramine) appear to have a modest or minimal effect on REM sleep.

Nervous system side effects including insomnia, somnolence, tremor, dizziness, headache, and fatigue have all been reported. The incidence of each of these effects ranges between 10% and 20% of treated patients. Akathisia, myoclonic jerking, and sleep abnormalities have also been reported. At higher doses, drowsiness often ensues. Increased alertness and enhanced cognition have been reported when sertraline is taken at low doses. Excitement has been reported less frequently. Sertraline-induced facial paresthesia has also been reported.


Psychiatric side effects including agitation and changes to hypomania have been observed infrequently. Although the drug has been reported to be an effective agent in the treatment of panic attacks, several cases of sertraline- induced panic attacks have been reported.


General side effects including weight loss have been reported frequently.


Genitourinary side effects including male sexual dysfunction (involving ejaculatory delay, impotence, and decreased libido) have been reported in as many as 21% of treated patients. In a study involving patients receiving sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) (50 to 200 mg daily) for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, 17% of patients reported a decrease or loss of libido. Among male patients, nearly 18% experienced some type of sexual dysfunction including abnormal orgasm/anorgasmia (10%), ejaculation failure (6%), and erectile disturbance (1.5%).

A single case of priapism has been reported in association with sertraline therapy. The patient was also taking lithium at the time.


Hepatic side effects including reversible elevations in liver function tests have been reported to occur in about 0.5% of treated patients.


Cardiovascular side effects including rare cases of hypertension, angina, and arrhythmias have been reported.


Endocrine side effects including two cases of galactorrhea have been reported in association with sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) therapy. Two cases of breast discomfort and enlargement without galactorrhea have also been reported.

Case reports have suggested that sertraline, like other serotonin- specific reuptake inhibitors, may induce the syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone (SIADH). Seven cases of hyponatremia have been reported, four of which were associated with SIADH. Six of the seven patients were over 60 years of age.


A case of withdrawal symptoms involving fatigue, abdominal cramps, insomnia, aching and chills has been reported following the abrupt discontinuation of sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) In another case, a patient developed dizziness and orthostatic hypotension on repeated attempts to discontinue the drug.

The night sweats stopped within four days of discontinuation of sertraline therapy. When the patient was changed to fluoxetine, the sweating did not recur.

Other side effects including a withdrawal syndrome have been reported. In one retrospective chart review of 352 patients who were supervised during tapering and discontinuation from serotonin reuptake inhibitor therapy, dizziness, lethargy, paresthesia, nausea, vivid dreams, irritability, and lowered mood were the most common symptoms reported. Patients with at least one qualitatively new symptom were defined in the sertraline group at a rate of 1.5%.

Other side effects including speech difficulties (which included stuttering and speech blockage) have been reported. At least one case of sertraline-related night sweats has also been reported.


Hematologic side effects including a case of septic shock secondary to agranulocytosis has been reported. A single case report has suggested that sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) may improve platelet counts in patients with idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura.


Ocular side effects including "abnormal vision" may occur in some patients according to one report. The specific abnormalities observed were not described by the authors.


Dermatologic side effects including alopecia (1%) have been reported. A case of photosensitivity has also been reported.


Musculoskeletal side effects may include increased odds of a hip fracture. In one study using the healthcare data from the province of Ontario, Canada reviewing 8,239 patients treated for hip fractures, the adjusted odds ratio for hip fracture was 2.4 for exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (including fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) , compared to participants who had no exposure to antidepressants.


Renal side effects including a mean decrease in serum uric acid levels of approximately 7% have been reported.


The results of one study appear to indicate that treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (i.e., paroxetine, sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) citalopram) may cause an increase in serum total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and/or LDL cholesterol. However, additional studies are necessary to confirm these findings.

Numerous cases of hyponatremia have been reported following treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Risk factors for the development of SSRI- associated hyponatremia including advanced age, female gender, concomitant use of diuretics, low body weight, and lower baseline serum sodium levels have been identified. Hyponatremia tends to develop within the first few weeks of treatment (range 3 to 120 days) and typically resolves within 2 weeks (range 48 hours to 6 weeks) after therapy has been discontinued with some patients requiring treatment. The proposed mechanism for the development of hyponatremia involves the syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone (SIADH) via release of antidiuretic hormone.

Metabolic side effects including hyponatremia have been reported in elderly patients. An increase in serum cholesterol has been reported following use of sertraline.


Respiratory side effects have included upper respiratory tract infection. In a study involving 314 women with moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome, 6% to 10% of patients developed upper respiratory tract infection after receiving sertraline (the active ingredient contained in Zoloft) 25 to 50 mg daily. However, it should be noted that 7% of placebo- treated patients also developed upper respiratory tract infection.

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