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How long does Zoloft (sertraline) take to work?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Jan 13, 2022.

Official answer

  • Zoloft (sertraline), a common selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant, can take about 4 to 6 weeks of regular dosing to reach its full therapeutic effect for depression. The initial effects may begin within the first 1 to 2 weeks of treatment. Some patients may require a longer time period.
  • Other uses for Zoloft, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may take up to 12 weeks of continuous treatment.
  • When prescribed for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), benefits may seen as early as week one of the first menstrual cycle after starting treatment.
  • It takes about one week for levels of Zoloft to build to a steady level in your body, and then a few more weeks for a full therapeutic effect for most uses.

Zoloft is used for many conditions and the clinical effectiveness with Zoloft can vary between people. It may also take longer for a therapeutic effect due to unique factors such as age, weight, body fluid, other medicines you take, kidney or liver function, or other medical conditions. Check with your doctor to determine your expected outcomes.

Zoloft may cause some side effects at the beginning of treatment, such as nausea, headaches or trouble sleeping, but these are usually temporary and will subside in a few weeks.

If you are having trouble with side effects and thinking of stopping treatment, contact your doctor first. Do not stop treatment on your own. There are many SSRI options and another medicine may work better, or your dose may need to be adjusted.

Learn more: Zoloft side effects (in more detail)

Zoloft has been approved by the FDA since the early 1990’s. It comes as an oral tablet and as an oral solution. It’s approved to treat:

How do I know if Zoloft is working?

Your energy, sleep, and appetite should improve, often in the first or second week after starting treatment for depression. The full effects should be evident for most uses within 4 to 6 weeks, although OCD and PTSD may take longer.

Some patients with depression seek medical help for issues like pain or headache. Once depression is addressed, the physical conditions often improve.

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • a chronic, deep, severely low mood, profound sadness, tearfulness, or a sense of hopelessness. This typically has lasted at least 2 weeks.
  • withdrawal from usual activities that bring pleasure, such as in work, family, or friends
  • chronic irritability, anxiety, restlessness or moodiness
  • a change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • changes in sleep habits
  • mental slowing, fatigue, lack of energy, trouble making decisions
  • feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
  • thoughts or actions of death or suicide

Usually people with depression have at least 5 symptoms that occur every day, for most of the day, for at least two weeks in a row. At least one of these symptoms must be either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.

Depression is a treatable condition with medication and talk therapy (psychotherapy). It has a high rate of success. If left untreated depression and its subtypes can result in a reduced quality of life, isolation from family, friends and the public, and self harm such as suicidal thoughts or actions. If you are exhibiting symptoms of depression or having thoughts of suicide, contact a medical professional immediately.

Suicide Hotline: A confidential suicide hotline can be accessed in the U.S. by calling: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or online at Trained, skilled professionals are available to to confidentially discuss any matter.

Related: Depression, Risk of Suicide, & Treatment Options

  • Lewis G, Duffy L, Ades A, et al. The clinical effectiveness of sertraline in primary care and the role of depression severity and duration (PANDA): a pragmatic, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial. Lancet Psychiatry. 2019 Nov;6(11):903-914. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30366-9. Epub 2019 Sep 19. PMID: 31543474
  • Depression. Accessed Jan. 13, 2022 at
  • Up to Date. Sertraline drug information. Accessed Jan. 13, 2022 at

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