Sertraline is a type of antidepressant known as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). It is often used to treat depression, and also sometimes panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sertraline helps many people recover from depression, and it has fewer unwanted effects than older antidepressants.
The recommended dose for adults is:
Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: For depression and OCD, the usual effective dose is 50 mg/day. The daily dose may be increased in 50 mg increments and at intervals of at least one week over a period of weeks. The maximum recommended dose is 200 mg/day.
Panic disorder, Social anxiety disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: For panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and post traumatic stress disorder, treatment should be started at 25 mg/day, and increased to 50 mg/day after one week. The daily dose then may be increased in 50 mg increments over a period of weeks. The maximum recommended dose is 200 mg/day.
How long will it take sertraline to start working?
- Antidepressants like sertraline can start to work on depression within the first two weeks of treatment, and the improvement continues over the following few weeks. It may take four weeks or longer for you to get the full effect.
- For anxiety, antidepressants like sertraline can take slightly longer to work. For some people, anxiety briefly increases at the start of treatment, but the anxiety does decrease with continued treatment.
- Some side effects of sertraline tend to happen at the start of treatment, but go away after a few days, such as feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting).
- To get the best effect, you need to take your sertraline every day and give it a chance to work for you.
- Your doctor will start with a low dose that increases slowly to a dose that is effective for you. This may take several days or weeks.
- You will need to take sertraline for several months after you feel better – otherwise your symptoms can come back.
- Keep taking sertraline as you get better, which can take a few months, and then keep taking it. Your doctor will advise you how long as it depends on what you are taking the sertraline for. For depression it might be 6 months, for OCD it might be 12 months and for other conditions such as generalised anxiety disorder it might be up to 18 months.
- If your illness has come back, then you might be advised to keep taking sertraline for longer than this.
- This will help keep you well. If you stop taking the sertraline too soon, there is more chance that your mental health symptoms will come back.
- Discuss with your doctor how long you should take sertraline for.
- If you have bipolar disorder, it is likely that the doctor will advise for the sertraline to be stopped sooner. This is because, in bipolar disorder, there is a risk of your mood becoming too high if an antidepressant is used for too long.
- See your doctor if you want to stop sertraline, to make sure it is not too soon to stop it.
- Also, the sertraline dose will need to be reduced gradually to reduce the chance of side effects when it is stopped (unless you are already on the lowest dose).
Some side-effects that do appear should get better after a few days. If they do not, you should go back to your doctor. Don’t stop taking Sertraline until you talk to your doctor or you may get withdrawal symptoms as well.
Very common – could affect more than 1 in 10 people:
- Dizziness or headache
- Sleepiness, feeling very tired, or difficulty getting to sleep
- Diarrhoea (loose poo)
- Feeling sick
- Dry mouth
- For men, problems with ejaculation
Common – could affect up to 1 in 10 people:
- Sore throat, teeth grinding, or a funny taste in your mouth.
- Changes in your appetite (feeling more or less hungry)
- Having nightmares
- Feeling anxious, agitated, depressed, nervous, or just strange
- Less interest in sex, or problems having sex – like getting an erection for men
- Numbness and tingling, muscles feel tense, having muscle pain, or shaking
- Problems with your attention
- Effects on your eyesight
- Ringing in your ears
- Palpitations, chest pain, hot flushes and sweating
- Yawning a lot
- Being sick, or having stomach and gut pain
- Having constipation, an upset stomach, lots of wind
- Getting a rash
Once you start taking a SSRI, the brain adjusts to having a new level of serotonin around. If you stop taking the SSRI all at once, the balance starts to change again. You could get some symptoms from the change.
Sertraline is not addictive however, you may get uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if you stop sertraline suddenly, as your body begins to miss it. It is better to agree stopping with a doctor who will reduce you gradually over about 4 weeks.
Some of the withdrawal symptoms include:
- dizziness or headaches
- tingling feelings like pins and needles or numbness
- sleep disturbances (vivid dreams, nightmares, not being able to sleep)
- feeling anxious or agitated
- feeling sick or being sick
- These symptoms should stop after 2-3 weeks for most people, but a very few people can get them for 2-3 months or more.
- Most people get mild symptoms, but for a very few people they can be very intense.
- Go and speak to your doctor if you have decided to stop taking your medication.
If you take or have taken sertraline in the past please leave a comment describing your experiences so that we can help the rest of the community understand what to expect and help them decide whether this is the right medication for them. 🙂