Zoloft Side Effects

by on June 21, 2011


Generic name: Sertraline.  The side effects of Zoloft encompass a wide range of ailments, including headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, sore throat, excessive sweating, tingling in the hands and feet, and tremors, along with manifestations of sexual arousal disorder in both men and women. More serious side effects include hallucinations, blurred vision, and seizures. Children and young adults who take Zoloft may also, paradoxically, be at a higher risk for depression and suicide.

Common Zoloft Side Effects

Zoloft may cause a number of side effects. These include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Headache
  • Tingling in hands or feet
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors

Serious Zoloft Side Effects

sertraline zoloft In addition to these common adverse effects, Zoloft may also induce more serious side effects. Patients should seek medical attention upon the onset of any of these:

  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Blurred vision
  • Hallucinations
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Excessive bruising or bleeding

Side Effects in Men

Like many antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, Zoloft can cause negative sexual side effects in both men and women; in fact, these side effects constitute a legitimate syndrome called “sexual arousal disorder”. For example, nearly 70% of men on Zoloft reported instances of impotence or difficulty in being aroused. Though these sexual side effects are less common for women, they are still present: over 40% of female Zoloft users reported difficulties in being aroused and reaching orgasm only after beginning treatment with the drug.

Side Effects in Women

In addition to documented sexual dysfunctions, women have also reported respiratory problems such as upper respiratory tract infections after taking Zoloft. While a small number of men have also exhibited these rare side effects of Zoloft, they are more common in women being treated with the drug for severe PMDD.

Zoloft and Possible Birth Defects

Research into the effects of Zoloft on pregnant women and unborn fetuses is still underway. However, studies show that most SSRIs can cause serious lung defects and respiratory disorders in newborn babies born to mothers who used the drug while pregnant.

Zoloft—in particular among selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants—has been linked to myriad of birth defects in children born to mothers who were taking the drug while pregnant. These include:

  • clubbed foot
  • cleft lip/palate
  • delayed development
  • persistent pulmonary hypertension
  • gastroschisis (causing organs to protrude outside the abdominal cavity)
  • heart defects
  • skull defects
  • brain/spinal cord defects.

In addition, Zoloft can cause premature birth or even miscarriage. And a child exposed to Zoloft in utero can experience withdrawal symptoms after birth.

Thus, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should seek an alternative course of treatment. Additionally, Zoloft can be passed along to babies through breast milk, so mothers who opt to breastfeed should also consult their physician about other possible antidepressant, OCD, or anti-anxiety medications.

Side Effects in Children

Children and teenagers who take Zoloft are at a higher risk for paradoxical reactions. In other words, this age group may experience side effects of the drug that run counter to the anti-depressant purpose of Zoloft itself. For example, a clinical trial studying children and young adults under the age of 24 who took Zoloft turned up a few individuals whose suicidal tendencies actually increased. Over time, it was discovered that children and teenagers who treated depression with SSRIs like Zoloft could actually become more depressed than those who went untreated.

Weight Side Effects

Clinical trials suggest that weight-related side effects of Zoloft are relatively negligible. For instance, various studies conducted over time periods ranging from 6 months to three years showed mean weight gains of only .1%-1.5% in patients taking Zoloft.  However, in some select cases, certain patients have reported significant weight gain, sometimes reaching up to 20 pounds within a year. This is more common in women than men, and may be attributable to changes in metabolic rate caused by the drug.

Zoloft comes with a long list of common and occasionally serious side effects, and when considering whether or not to treat depression and anxiety disorders, the risks should be weighed against the benefits. Still, Zoloft is an FDA approved drug that has been deemed safe for use across a wide age group, and has in fact been deemed one of the most effective and most popular inpatient and outpatient treatments for depression.