Sertraline for anxiety & depression.

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Is Sertraline (zoloft) right for you?

There are many different types of antidepressant medications, and it’s important to find the one that’s right for you. At Brightside, we’re here to help. Our providers are knowledgeable about each type of medication for anxiety and depression and specialize in finding the best fit for your individual needs. As part of your treatment, your provider may recommend an antidepressant called sertraline to help you feel better.

Sertraline is a commonly used antidepressant medication that’s often well tolerated and effective for the treatment of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and other conditions. Below, we offer some helpful information about sertraline so you can work with your provider to determine if it’s right for you and make an informed decision about your care.

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Mimi Winsberg, MD

Chief Medical Officer
Stanford-trained Psychiatrist with 25 years of practice

Get a sertraline prescription and ongoing anxiety & depression care for only $95 / month.

What’s included in a Brightside Medication Membership:

  • Ongoing support from an expert psychiatric provider
  • Unlimited daily messaging & video follow-ups
  • Regular progress tracking

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Step 1

Fill out our free mental health assessment.

Start with a clinically-proven set of questions to shed light on how you’re feeling. We’ll help you understand your symptoms, then recommend the best treatment plan for you–including medication, therapy, or both.

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Step 2

Connect with your provider for a personalized treatment plan.

Get matched with an expert provider for an online video consultation. Share how you’re feeling and then decide on next steps–together.

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Step 3

Make progress and start feeling better.

Stay in touch with with unlimited messaging, plus monthly video sessions with your Therapist and unlimited video consults with your Psychiatric Provider.

Then measure your progress with regular check-ins to monitor your symptoms and make adjustments until your treatment is right for you.

Everything you need to know about sertraline

What is sertraline, and how does it work?

Sertraline commonly sold under the brand name Zoloft is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and is used to treat many conditions related to anxiety and depression.

SSRIs help make you feel better by raising levels of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that can improve your mood and emotional well-being—in your brain. Serotonin can also improve your memory, sleep, digestion, bone health, sexual function, and more.

When serotonin levels are too low, it can cause negative changes in your mood and affect your sleep. Your provider may prescribe sertraline to help restore healthy serotonin levels in your brain. This improves communication between your brain cells, which can help you feel better and relieve symptoms of depression.

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What conditions does sertraline treat?

Sertraline is approved to treat a variety of mental health conditions in adults, including: 

  • Major depressive disorder 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Social anxiety disorder

Sertraline is also commonly used to treat migraines, sleep disorders, fibromyalgia or other pain syndromes, sexual problems, or eating disorders.

At Brightside, our psychiatric providers specialize in personalizing treatment for each person. We give you personal attention and expert advice you can count on—we explain all your options and use our expertise to find the medication that’s right for you. We make sure you understand how medications work and what to expect so that your treatment is worry-free.

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What symptoms can sertraline help reduce?

Sertraline works best for boosting your mood, relieving anxiety, and easing worries.

At Brightside, we use this medication to treat a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Anxiousness, nervousness, or restlessness
  • Excessive worry 
  • Feelings of hopelessness and dread
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
  • Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness
  • Obsessions and compulsions
  • Poor appetite
  • Sadness
  • Sleeping too much or having difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Social anxiety, including blushing, sweating, and nervousness
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm 
  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Vivid flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts associated with PTSD

Brightside providers have an in-depth knowledge of the strengths and drawbacks of each medication. You’ll get all the information you need to make an informed choice about your treatment.

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Will sertraline work for me?

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer. What works for you may not work for someone else—or what works for someone you know may not be the right medication for you. That’s why it’s important to receive care from professionals who have the experience to find what works best for you.

At Brightside, we consider your unique situation to create your treatment plan based on your needs. Your age, sex, health history, and genetics all play a role in how a particular medication will work for you—not to mention your diet, underlying health conditions, and other medications you’re taking, which impact a medication’s effectiveness.

To ensure sertraline is the right antidepressant for you, make sure it’s prescribed only by a physician or other qualified psychiatric provider. We recommend a comprehensive health assessment from a provider who understands your health history. At Brightside, we offer same-day consultation and telehealth services to ensure you get the care and attention you need.

Typically, your provider will start you on a low dose of the medication and increase it gradually. It may take time before you feel the full effect of the medication—from a few weeks to a few months. It’s essential you continue taking your medication as directed to ensure you get the maximum benefits. Your body needs time to adjust to a new medication.

We understand you want to feel better right away, and we’re always here to listen to your concerns and offer support. Your board-certified Brightside provider will keep a close eye on your progress and make any appropriate adjustments to ensure your medication and dosage offer you the best results.

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How long do people generally take sertraline?

Before taking an antidepressant, it’s not uncommon for people to have concerns about how long they need to take it. Trust your provider’s recommendations—and don’t adjust your dose or stop taking your medication without talking to your provider first. Follow their instructions so that you get the most from your treatment. Even if you feel better, it’s important to keep taking your medication as directed.

We understand you want to feel better right away, but it’s essential to give the medication time to take effect—each person is different. Your provider may need to switch doses or change or add medications to give you the best results.

Once you start to feel better, it’s important to continue taking the medication for at least six months during this maintenance period to benefit from the medication.

After maintenance, many people can wean off their medication, making a full course of treatment of about 9-12 months.

Many people—particularly those with recurrent, persistent, and treatment-resistant depression—may require longer treatment.

Most importantly, we recommend you keep taking your medication until your provider says it’s time to stop, even after you start to feel better.

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How effective is sertraline?

Studies have shown that antidepressants relieve symptoms of depression about 40-60% of the time and additional treatments (such as therapy and lifestyle improvements) on top of medication often lead to the best outcomes.

To get the best results with medication, it’s important to consistently measure progress during treatment. This is known as Measurement Based Care, and it’s the approach we use at Brightside. It’s common to adjust the dose and/or medication when starting antidepressants until you find just the right fit.

Several studies have shown sertraline to be safe and effective. A JAMA study showed patients taking sertraline for post-traumatic stress disorder had a more significant improvement than a placebo.

Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found a favorable response with sertraline compared to a placebo in patients with major depressive disorder.

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Does sertraline change my personality?

Sertraline and other antidepressants don’t change your personality. The goal is to help you feel better—like yourself again—and restore your mental health and well-being. But remember, it doesn’t happen overnight. Keep taking your medication as prescribed, and talk to us if you have any questions or concerns.

Are there side effects associated with sertraline?

Sertraline is generally a safe medication when used as prescribed by a board-certified physician. There are no known problems with taking the medication long term. But it’s critical to review the FDA warnings before starting this medication, including the potential that starting antidepressants may increase suicide risk for those under 25.

There are some common side effects associated with sertraline, which are temporary and manageable. You should avoid alcohol and illegal drugs while on this medication, as they can worsen side effects. Common side effects include: 

  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Sleep problems
  • Sweating and dizziness
  • Uncontrollable shaking

Contact your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms, particularly if they’re new:

  • Agitation, restlessness, anger, or irritability
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Behavior changes, such as increased energy, talking more than usual, or other changes in mood or behavior
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • New or worse depression, anxiety, or panic attacks
  • Thoughts of suicide or attempts

At Brightside, your health and safety are our highest priorities. We make sure you get individual attention and guidance to make sure you feel your best.

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Does sertraline have withdrawal symptoms?

Sertraline can help make you feel better. And when it does, some people think they’re ready to stop taking it. But, in most cases, sertraline is part of what’s causing those good feelings—stopping your medication could bring symptoms back. That’s why it’s necessary to continue taking it. If you’re concerned about continuing to take it or you want to make any changes, talk to your provider first.

Antidepressants are not physiologically or psychologically addictive, but they can cause a discontinuation syndrome if stopped abruptly.

Discontinuation syndrome is a consequence of abruptly stopping certain types of antidepressants––particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). 

It can include a range of symptoms that may occur in patients who suddenly stop their SSRIs or SNRIs. These are the most common symptoms of discontinuation syndrome: 

  • Feeling anxious
  • Feelings of vertigo
  • Odd sensory symptoms, such as tingling feelings in the skin or what some people describe as a “zapping” sensation in the brain
  • Trouble sleeping

Talk to your provider before stopping or changing how you take your medication so that they can create a plan that gives your body enough time to adjust. This will keep you feeling well and prevent symptoms from returning.

At Brightside, your health and safety are our highest priorities. We make sure you get individual attention and guidance to make sure you feel your best.

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Can I take sertraline during pregnancy or while nursing?

If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, please talk to your Brightside provider before making any medication changes. For some, the benefits of staying on an antidepressant during pregnancy can outweigh the potential risks.

Some studies suggest using SSRIs, like sertraline, during pregnancy may contribute to complications such as low birth weight and premature delivery (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

If you’re breastfeeding and taking sertraline, only a small amount of the medication is passed into the breast milk. Most published reports on sertraline and breastfeeding suggest there are no harmful effects on the nursing infant.

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Is sertraline addictive?

Sertraline isn’t addictive, and it’s not a controlled substance. If you have concerns about taking this medication, your Brightside provider is here to give you answers. Your health and safety are our highest priority.

What does the FDA say about sertraline?

You can view the FDA black box warning for sertraline here. If you have questions about whether the black box warning for sertraline applies to you, please talk to your doctor.

Conditions we treat with sertraline

Brightside Psychiatric Providers prescribe sertraline alongside other medicines to treat conditions including:
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