Zoloft for Anxiety: Effectiveness, Dosage and Side Effects

Anxiety is indicated by feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension. Anxiety may manifest itself in a variety of ways, including cognitive, psychological, and physical. On an emotional level, one may feel scared or powerless.

Physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating, and trouble breathing is occasionally associated with severe anxiety. (1) These are common symptoms among those who suffer from anxiety. People who suffer from panic attacks and anxiety attacks are well aware of how tough it is to cope with anxious feelings. (2) Anxiety may feel as though it is taking over or that it is entirely beyond one’s control.

Anxiety is a part of life that cannot be avoided. People do, however, experience long periods of anxiety from time to time, which can have an influence on their social lives, job lives, and personal development.

In extreme instances, anxiety might progress to a disorder. When worry and stress are both chronic and severely disruptive, anxiety disorders emerge. Anxiety disorders typically demand treatment, which usually falls into one of the main kinds: psychotherapy or medication.

Anxiety may be treated with a range of medications, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. People frequently use medicines such as beta-blockers or gabapentin for anxiety, among other medicines. Another class of drugs, Zoloft for anxiety, is evaluated in this article, along with all relevant details, including possible interactions with other drugs and major negative effects.

What is Zoloft?

Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that acts by slowing the reabsorption of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is involved in mood and anxiety modulation. SSRIs are believed to act by blocking serotonin reuptake by neurons, resulting in higher serotonin concentrations at the nerve synapse. (3)

Sertraline is marketed under the brand Zoloft. Sertraline’s benefits, according to researchers, are related to its capacity to rebalance brain chemicals such as serotonin, which appear to be out of balance in patients with anxiety, depression, and other illnesses.

It is a prescription medicine used to treat social anxiety disorder, a mental illness characterized by an unreasonable fear of being watched, criticized, or embarrassed, or humiliated. Zoloft is also used to treat mental diseases such as major depressive disorder (4), obsessive-compulsive disorder (5), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (6), and post-traumatic stress disorder. (7)

 

If psychological therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, are not working or if a psychiatrist believes it would enhance someone’s quality of life, Zoloft may be prescribed. SSRIs like Zoloft are not necessarily the ideal anxiety medications since they might exacerbate anxiety in certain people. Before using Zoloft, those with mild or frequent anxiety should see their doctor about alternative anxiety drugs.

How does Zoloft work for anxiety?

Zoloft belongs to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors group of drugs. Zoloft was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991 for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). It works by boosting the amount of serotonin, the primary neurotransmitter in your brain. It can help avoid panic attacks, enhance your general mood, and halt some obsessive-compulsive behaviors by raising serotonin levels. (8) Sertraline can significantly help those with a social anxiety disorder since it helps alleviate many symptoms of anxiety.

The therapeutic effects of SSRIs like Zoloft are based on boosting low serotonin levels, which experts believe is the cause of depression and anxiety. SSRIs work by blocking serotonin reuptake and thereby enhancing serotonin activity, as the name implies. (9)

SSRIs, unlike the other anti-anxiety medications, have little impact on neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. Since they have fewer impacts on adrenergic, cholinergic, and histaminergic receptors, SSRIs have fewer adverse effects than TCAs and MAOIs. (10)

The serotonin transporter (SERT) in the presynaptic axon terminal is inhibited by SSRIs. When SERT is inhibited, more serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5HT) lingers in the synaptic cleft, allowing it to excite postsynaptic receptors for a prolonged period. (11)

Since Zoloft is a prescription drug, you will need to speak with your doctor and get a prescription before you can take it to treat your anxiety.

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How does Zoloft make you feel when anxious?

When taken regularly, Zoloft can help individuals feel less anxious or afraid, as well as diminish the desire to undertake repetitive tasks. It can help with sleep, hunger, energy, and restoring interest in everyday activities, as well as reducing undesirable thoughts and panic attacks. Improvements may occur one to two weeks after starting the medicine.

It may take six to eight weeks for more major effects, such as feeling less depressed or recovering interest in daily life. Many people will see a significant improvement in their anxiety symptoms over time.

Dosage of Zoloft for anxiety

The appropriate Zoloft dose for anxiety depends on the degree of the anxiety and if the patient has any underlying medical issues. However, the recommended starting dose of Zoloft for anxiety is 25 mg or 50 mg per day. There are three dosage levels of Zoloft tablets: 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg. The maximum daily dose of Zoloft is 200 mg, which can be divided into two 100 mg pills to consume.

The most beneficial dose of Zoloft, according to research, is 50 mg per day. (12) For the majority of patients, this dosage is the most effective and acceptable. If people do not respond to 50 mg per day, their doctor may recommend increasing their Zoloft dose by 50 mg per day at weekly intervals, up to a maximum of 200 mg per day. A doctor may advise taking 50 mg once a day for one week, then 100 mg once a day for another week.

Zoloft also comes as an oral solution in the form of liquid. The oral solution is a clear, colorless, menthol-scented solution containing 20 mg of sertraline per mL in a 12% alcohol solution. It comes in a 60 mL container with a calibrated dropper with graduation markers of 25 mg and 50 mg. Before using Zoloft oral solution, mix it with 4 ounces of water, orange juice, lemonade, ginger ale, or lemon or lime soda right before taking it.

It is crucial to talk to your doctor about the proper dose for you because the precise quantity of medication you will need depends on your particular situation, the severity of your symptoms, and whether or not you have any other health issues.

Missed Dose of Zoloft

You may inevitably miss a dosage of Zoloft at some time. It is critical to take your prescription exactly as your doctor prescribes, but missing a dosage is not the end of the world if you know how to manage it.

As soon as you recall, take your dosage. If the next dosage is approaching, do not take an additional dose to make up for the one you skipped. Simply continue with the following dose. If you stop taking your medicine suddenly, you may encounter negative effects and an increased chance of relapse. If you have been having symptoms as a result of missing a dosage, they should go away once you resume taking Zoloft regularly.

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How long does Zoloft take to work?

You should anticipate Zoloft to start functioning in two to six weeks once you start taking it in the recommended dosage as prescribed by your doctor. Considering Zoloft is not the kind of drug that starts working right away, you will need to be patient while you wait for it to start helping you with your symptoms.

Improvements in sleep, energy, and hunger are some of the first indicators that Zoloft is functioning. Improvements might occur within one to two weeks after starting the medicine. It may take six to eight weeks for more major effects to appear, such as feeling less depressed or recovering interest in daily life.

You may have a few adverse effects when you first start taking Zoloft. One of the most effective methods to avoid side effects is to take your medication precisely as your doctor prescribes. Your doctor will prescribe a specific amount for a reason, and increasing your Zoloft dosage only to get it to work faster is not a good idea.

Do not quit taking Zoloft if your symptoms do not improve right away because it does not work immediately. It requires two to six weeks for anxiety symptoms to start to fade. Some people may see an improvement in their anxiety symptoms during the first week of using Zoloft, though it is not guaranteed for all.

Is Zoloft addictive?

Since Zoloft is a mind-altering medication, it can lead to addiction. When an individual gets addicted to Zoloft, they are unable to function normally or get through the day without it. When people stop using Zoloft, they may have withdrawal symptoms. People often continue to take Zoloft even though they no longer require it to prevent withdrawal symptoms. An addiction condition is marked by a cycle of withdrawing and relapsing.

As Zoloft has a short half-life, the period a medication stays in the bloodstream before leaving the body, its benefits fade fast when someone stops taking it. That implies that if a person stops taking Zoloft abruptly, their serotonin levels will drop. That is why doctors frequently ease their patients off their medications by gradually lowering the quantity they take until they stop altogether, this technique is known as tapering.

The body may respond negatively to reduced levels of serotonin in the neurological system until the brain adjusts to post-Zoloft serotonin levels. Withdrawal symptoms often last one to three weeks. Depending on how long a person has been on Zoloft, the intensity of withdrawal symptoms may vary.

When individuals stop taking their dosage, they frequently develop residual depression or anxiety. Chills, dizziness, exhaustion, headaches, irritability, sleeplessness, inability to concentrate, nausea, frequent nightmares and vivid dreams, suicidal tendencies, and vertigo are all potential Zoloft withdrawal symptoms. (13)

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Side effects of Zoloft

Some early adverse effects may occur within the first week of using Zoloft. This happens because the body requires time to adjust to the medicine. At first, taking Zoloft may make you feel strange or uncomfortable while your body adjusts to the medicine. Most people’s adverse effects will go away within a week or two as their bodies adjust to the drug. Some of these adverse effects may occur on a random basis throughout your treatment with Zoloft, particularly when your doctor raises your dose and the side effects vary from person to person. Some of the common side effects include:

Fatigue

Tiredness is a typical Zoloft side effect. It occurs most frequently during the first few weeks of treatment and typically goes away on its own as your body adapts to the drug. One strategy to cope with this fatigue is to take your Zoloft dosage at night, which will frequently lessen the medication’s impact on your energy levels throughout the day.

Sleep Problems

After using Zoloft, some people develop insomnia. This might lead to midday exhaustion, making it difficult to stick to your regular schedule. Taking Zoloft early in the morning might help you fall asleep.

Decreased Appetite

When you first start taking Zoloft, you may experience a decline in your appetite. This, like other adverse effects, usually goes away within a few weeks. Continue your usual eating habits and calorie consumption to prevent losing weight.

Headaches

Mild headaches are a common side effect of Zoloft, especially in the first few weeks of treatment. Staying hydrated, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and avoiding alcohol are the best ways to address headaches caused by Zoloft.

Dry Mouth

You may have a dry mouth over the first few weeks of using Zoloft. Chewing sugar-free gum, drinking a sufficient amount of water, avoiding smoking, and making an effort to breathe exclusively through your nose will help.

Dizziness

Zoloft causes dizziness, which is one of the most prevalent adverse effects. It is most prevalent during the first few weeks of therapy, and it normally goes away once the medicine has established a stable level in your body.

Sexual problems

Zoloft is one of the numerous medications that might have sexual adverse effects like erectile dysfunction and decreased libido. After using Zoloft, some men find it increasingly difficult to orgasm.

Weight Gain

Zoloft has been related to weight gain, just like other SSRIs. As a result of changes in appetite, food, and exercise level, around 25% of persons who use SSRIs gain weight. Following your usual eating habits, exercise level, and calorie intake will help you prevent weight gain, much as preventing weight loss.

Diahrrea

Diarrhea, like other typical Zoloft side effects, might begin within the first several weeks of medication. If you get diarrhea after taking Zoloft, drink plenty of water to prevent getting dehydrated.

As Zoloft achieves a steady state in your body, these adverse effects should diminish. If you are experiencing chronic Zoloft side effects that do not improve after a month, you should contact your doctor.

Zoloft has been associated with a number of dangerous adverse effects. These adverse effects are uncommon and only affect a small fraction of Zoloft consumers, but they are worth highlighting. Some of the rare side effects of Zoloft include fainting and intense dizziness, painful long-lasting erections, chest discomfort, prolonged bleeding, and suicidal tendencies.

A warning for suicidal ideation and behaviors is also included with Zoloft. Antidepressants, when compared to a placebo, raised the incidence of suicidal behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term trials. If you are on Zoloft and are experiencing severe mood swings or suicidal thoughts or acts, you should seek professional care immediately. (14)

Interaction of Zoloft with other drugs

Drugs that interact with Zoloft may reduce its impact, shorten its duration of action, cause adverse effects, or have no effect when combined. An interaction between two drugs may not necessarily necessitate the discontinuation of one of them; nonetheless, it does occur sometimes. Consult your doctor about how to handle these medication interactions.

Some of the major interactions of Zoloft with other drugs are given below:

  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin, as well as other medicines having blood-thinning properties may interact with Zoloft. Zoloft may raise the risk of bleeding with any of these drugs. (15)
  • Any drowsiness-inducing medicine, such as benzodiazepines (e.g., diazepam, lorazepam) react positively with Zoloft and the combination of both is often used to treat anxiety and depression. (16)
  • When first-generation antihistamines (e.g., doxylamine or promethazine) are used with Zoloft, they may cause dizziness, sleepiness, disorientation, and difficulties concentrating. (17)
  • When SSRIs like Zoloft are used with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, there is a substantial risk of serotonin syndrome, and fatalities have been observed when taken at therapeutic levels. (18)
  • Several clinical studies have found that combining atypical antipsychotic medicines (e.g., olanzapine, quetiapine, ziprasidone) with continued therapies with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can help with drug-resistant depression. (19)
  • Common herbal depression therapies, such as St. John’s Wort, have been shown to interact with Zoloft and other SSRI drugs, thereby raising your risk of adverse effects. (20)

This is not an extensive list and just contains common drugs that may interact with Zoloft.

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Conclusion

Zoloft is one of the most often prescribed SSRIs. It is safe, extremely effective, and adaptable in addressing a wide range of common health problems. However, it is important to note that a single medication may not be effective in relieving anxiety. Some individuals take it in conjunction with other pharmaceuticals, others use herbs to relieve anxiety, and others adopt lifestyle modifications and optimization, such as physical activity and talking therapy in groups, one-on-one, or with your family.

To get rid of anxiety, try anything whatsoever, but be sure to check your doctor before making any changes or increasing, reducing, quitting, and taking other medicines with Zoloft.

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