While its intended use is to treat mental health problems, it has several side effects that can significantly impact you and your body.
Many people who decide to use Zoloft are so motivated to find some assistance that they overlook the full extent of those effects. However, for the sake of your health, it’s critical to be thoroughly well informed regarding anything you are introducing into your system.
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When people experience mental health issues, such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress, it’s natural for them to seek solutions that might help them regain control over their lives. One example of such a solution is the medication sertraline, more commonly known by the brand name Zoloft. Doctors often prescribe Zoloft for anxiety and depression. Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that works by preventing your body from reabsorbing serotonin so that an increased amount is available. While its intended use is to treat mental health problems, it has several side effects that can significantly impact you and your body. Many people who decide to use Zoloft are so motivated to find some assistance that they overlook the full extent of those effects. However, for the sake of your health, it’s critical to be thoroughly well informed regarding anything you are introducing into your system.
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What to Expect of Zoloft Side Effects Your First Week
Once you’ve filled your prescription, you might be under the impression that you will no longer have to struggle with the challenges of having a mental health disorder. The truth is that often it takes a significant waiting period before patients start to feel any of the benefits associated with the drug. Instead, those first several weeks often involve various unpleasant side effects as your body adjusts to the drug. The most common side effects you might observe during that period include nausea and a decreased appetite, diarrhea, sweating, and tremors. This can be particularly difficult for people with demanding jobs or daily routines, as they may find themselves physically unable to carry out their usual duties. This can also negatively impact social relationships, as the pain and discomfort can make it increasingly difficult to interact with others.
Continued Side Effects While Taking Zoloft
Even after your body has adjusted to the medication, you may continue to experience side effects. These range from fairly common and manageable effects to far more serious, damaging ones. In some cases, the effects may be severe enough to require hospitalization, so it’s critical to familiarize yourself with them and know what to expect.
Most Common Zoloft Side Effects
The initial effects of introducing Zoloft to your body don’t wear off for everyone. In fact, some patients continue experiencing those effects throughout the entirety of their treatment. In addition to nausea, decreased appetite, diarrhea, and sweating, you might also experience dizziness, drowsiness, or dry mouth. Then there are more subtle changes that can be difficult to detect. Patients on Zoloft often observe unwanted changes to their sleep, weight, and libido.
Disruptions to Sleep Patterns
Many patients taking Zoloft find that the quality of their sleep is significantly reduced. Not only do they have a much more difficult time falling to sleep at night, but it’s also harder for them to remain asleep throughout the night. A little insomnia may not seem too consequential, but sleep contributes to many other aspects of our health, and disruptions to our sleeping patterns can have huge impacts on our bodies over time. Long-term periods of insufficient sleep can lead to increased risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, seizures, and strokes, in addition to the worsening of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
It’s fairly common for those taking Zoloft to gain weight during their treatment. The combination of changes to the metabolism, in addition to other health factors, means that many of those using the drug end up in a whole new weight category. This can lead to increased risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes.
Diminished Sexual Libido
Another common change experienced by those on Zoloft is a decrease in sexual desire. For those currently in a committed relationship, the decrease can be significant enough to discontinue sexual interactions altogether. In some cases, patients also experience sexual dysfunction, including the inability to ejaculate or orgasm. The sudden loss of intimacy can be challenging for a couple and can ultimately be detrimental to the relationship.
Psychiatric Side Effects
Most of the common side effects are physical; however, Zoloft can have psychiatric effects as well. While people are less likely to experience these, they are extremely serious and should prompt them to talk to their doctors as soon as possible. Some examples of psychiatric symptoms people might develop include anxiety, hallucinations, impulsive behavior, memory loss, major depression, and mania.
More serious symptoms, such as muscle cramps or developing a sudden tendency for bleeding and bruising, should be mentioned to a doctor right away. In some cases, patients can even develop severe side effects such as irregular heartbeat, blood in their stool or vomit, eye pain or swelling, or changes to their vision. These require immediate medical attention. Unfortunately, not all the most serious effects are immediately noticeable.
The Danger of Disinhibition
Zoloft is designed to change the way our brain works by preventing it from reabsorbing serotonin so that more is available. This can have several psychological impacts. One of the impacts currently being studied is disinhibition. Generally speaking, disinhibition refers to any state where our inhibitions are no longer regulating our behavior; for example, people who have had a significant amount of alcohol experience a degree of disinhibition. The severity of the situation is dependent upon which inhibitions are being disregarded.
There have been multiple cases where patients currently taking Zoloft committed horrific crimes, including arson and murder. In each case, the defense stated that the defendants could not fully appreciate the severity and wrongness of their actions due to the drug’s psychiatric effects
How Zoloft Affects Your Lifestyle
Beyond all the side effects they may experience, patients on Zoloft often need to adjust their lifestyle while taking the medication. One frequent change is the inability to consume alcohol. Zoloft and alcohol can have some pretty serious interactions. When someone with Zoloft in their system drinks alcohol, they have an increased risk of experiencing dizziness, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, drowsiness, and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts. Being unable to consume alcohol can have unforeseen impacts on your social life.
In addition, patients on Zoloft should avoid becoming pregnant, as the drug can harm the baby in utero. Pregnant mothers who take Zoloft may give birth to babies with withdrawal symptoms, including difficulty breathing, seizures, and muscle stiffness. Couples interested in starting a family will have to put their plans on hold as long as Zoloft is involved.
What Is Zoloft Withdrawal?
Depending on your experience with side effects, you might ultimately decide that this particular solution is not appropriate in your case and that it’s time to discontinue taking the drug. If that’s the case, you need to understand what to expect from the process. Generally speaking, it is ill-advised to quit taking the pills from one day to the next. Because of the changes your body has undergone, the sudden loss of Zoloft in your system can cause symptoms of withdrawal, including increased anxiety and feelings of irritability. Zoloft withdrawal can also result in flu-like symptoms. This is referred to as SSRI discontinuation syndrome. That’s why it’s critical to work with a doctor and slowly make the transition. However, keep in mind that even when working with your doctor to taper off the medication, you may experience negative side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, and diarrhea.
What Are Some Alternatives to Zoloft?
If you’ve previously tried taking Zoloft and determined it was not effective or would like to pursue a different solution, there are fortunately plenty of Zoloft alternative treatments offered by the experts at Alternative to Meds Center. These treatments aim to help patients manage the symptoms of their mental health disorder and address the source of their problems. One of the most effective alternatives to Zoloft is psychotherapy, which enables patients to gain a deeper understanding of their disorder with the guidance of a professional talk therapist.
Other natural alternatives patients can explore include physical treatments such as acupuncture and body massages, lab tests to identify toxins in the body, and healthy lifestyle changes. Many people find that exercising more, making improvements to their diet, and increasing their exposure to sunlight and nature make a real difference in handling their mental health issues.
If you’d like to learn more about all of the holistic services and natural alternatives available to help treat your mental health disorders at Alternative to Meds Center, please contact us.
This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.
Dr. Samuel Lee
Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
Diane is an avid supporter and researcher of natural mental health strategies. Diane received her medical writing and science communication certification through Stanford University and has published over 3 million words on the topics of holistic health, addiction, recovery, and alternative medicine. She has proudly worked with the Alternative to Meds Center since its inception and is grateful for the opportunity to help the founding members develop this world-class center that has helped so many thousands regain natural mental health.
Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.