Anxiety Community
23k Members
Avatar universal

Zoloft Side Effects

hey guys, I am a 22 year old white male college student weighing about 130 lbs. I have been on zoloft for two weeks and the side effects are still pretty bad, without any benefits (it seems like it has been two years!). (I have tried lexapro, paxil, and celexa, but zoloft was the first AD I have taken and from my first experience seemed to produce the least side effects for me (although this time seems bad). I know it takes awhile for SSRI's to get working and initial side effects are common. I started taking 25mgs for a week and have been on 50mgs for a week. I am still having INSOMNIA (cannot stay asleep at all), HIGHER ANXIETY/PANIC, JAW CLENCHING/TEETH GRINDING, SWEATING, and constant MILD TREMORS. I am also having DEPERSONALIZATION/DEREALIZATION but that could probably be from my depression/anxiety/situation and just worse with not much sleep...  It has been worse since taking 50mgs. I have enough various sleeping pills to kill a horse (melatonin, ambien, trazadone, klonopin (personal fave), and vistiril (sp?) ) but I try to stay away from them for the most part, esp bc it makes waking up/ class the next day so difficult. Should I drop to 25mgs for awhile, tough it out, or bug my psychiatrist once again? I am not a big fan of feeling so medicated to the point it effects my intellectual functioning (which has gotten bad due to my depression/anxiety anyways) Any words of encouragement would be great! I also worry about what I've read regarding SSRI's and brain damage, but know that I need the meds right now so am trying to commit.
9 Responses
370181 tn?1428180348
First of all, everything we take, eat, inhale or touch is going to give us SOMETHING according to some test somewhere..........so if the SSRI's WERE really going to give us all brain damage, there would be millions of people flushing their toilets right now. Please do not add this to your list of worries!

Also, don't change your medication in any way until you've spoken with your doctor...........we cannot advise you on that in any way. I WILL advise you to definitely NOT self-medicate with anything from your drug locker. You say you have enough stuff to a "kill a horse........." So then, you'd have plenty to kill yourself! Please don't mess around with the stuff, OK? Just ask your doc.    

It's possible the last time you took the Zoloft, your anxiety level may not have been as intense, so it seemed to work better. When you talk with your doctor, he may very well lower you down a notch, but you might want to discuss adding a short term benzo to get you over this rough starting patch. Once the Zoloft fully kicks in, you probably won't need the benzo and can stop according to your p-docs directions.

The last AD I took was Zoloft and I had a lot of the same symptoms you're describing. It took me about 4 weeks to really shake all of them off. Still do a bit too much teeth clenching, tho. My dentist isn't happy. I told him if he wasn't happy then he might be depressed and should take some Zoloft. HE can afford the mouth guard he wanted ME to pay for! LOL

You know from experience it takes some patience and trial and error to get these damn ADs right, so hang in there, bug your doctor again, which is what you're paying him the big bucks for and you'll get it worked out.
Avatar universal
Well, yes, these drugs can cause brain damage, but not the kind you're thinking about.  Benzos are believed, for example, to interfere with the brain's ability to learn to handle stress, and antidepressants that target serotonin are believed to make it hard for the brain to ever function again without a drug.  But these aren't what happens to most people, they are what happens when drugs go bad, and nobody knows how often this happens (we know that benzos are believed to be so bad for you in the UK that's it's very hard to get them there).  And some ADs are known to be much worse than others, such as Paxil and Effexor.  What you don't say is how long you were on any of these meds and how recently you quit them.  Assuming Zoloft is going to work for you, some of these might go away, or you might just not care anymore because the drug kicks in and you're so glad to just feel better.  Each of us reacts differently.  So yes, it's best to not take any drugs at all, but if you need them, then you need them, so the question if whether one needs them or not meaning all other avenues were exhausted.  None of us can know if this is the right med for you, and if you were on Paxil for any length of time it makes it harder to find another med that works.  I've had that unfortunate problem.  But it could be you just need some time.  It's really too early to tell, but I would say follow your instincts and in the meantime try to find a good therapist who might be able to get you off this merry-go-round, though that's a whole lot easier said than done!
480448 tn?1426952138
Hello there!

If you follow the same path with the Zoloft that a vast majority of people do (which is impossible to predict, unfortunately), the initial side effects should start to improve within the next week or two, if not hopefully sooner.

The one thing I would mention is that you seem to be going up in your dose rather quickly, going from 25mg to 50mg after only 1 week on the 25mg.  That's pretty quick and probably could account for the more severe side effects.  You stated you were on Zoloft before in the past?  When did you take it, for how long and what dose were you on?  When did you stop taking it, and why?  Did you taper off of it, or just stop taking it?

There IS a phenomenon with these types of meds where the brain has a kind of "memory" when it comes to the meds and their side effects, meaning, it is fairly common to have more difficulty adjusting to a med that you tolerated very well the first time around.  That doesn't mean you won't be able to tolerate it, or that it won't work for you again, it just means the initial side effect stage may be a little rougher than it was the last time. I've experienced this first hand myself.  The first time I took Zoloft, I had VERY minimal side effects, barely noticeable in fact.  The second time I started taking it, I had pretty intense side effects...they DID eventually start to improve, I just had to work with my doc to find ways to manage the side effects while I waited to adjust, and while I waited for the side effects to abate.

The hardest thing to do is to be patient and give the meds time to work, and give the side effects time to start improving.  Since you started out at a low dose, it may take even longer for you to get to the point where you can fairly assess the Zoloft's effectiveness.  

My advice to you would be to talk to your doctor about slowing it down a bit.  I think asking to go back to the 25mg isn't a bad idea.  Then, instead of bumping up the dose after a week, I would say 3 weeks or more is more reasonable.  That will hopefully decrease the severity of the side effects, and also allow some stabilization time in between dosage increases.  A week between them is pretty fast IMO.

There ARE meds, like a benzodiazepine (ie Xanax, Ativan) that can be used for a short time during the adjustment phase, to help with the side effects.  That was always very helpful to me when I was experiencing the kinds of side effects you describe as I was starting a med.  Usually, a benzo is only needed for a few weeks, maybe a bit longer.  That's something you need to talk to your doctor about.  Definitely do NOT take matters into your own hands, either with adjusting the Zoloft dose on your own, or self-medicating with other meds you have lying around.  That's NEVER a good idea.  Talk to your doctor.  There are always options and ways to handle the side effects.

BTW, a bit off topic, but the "hoarding" of old meds is something a lot of people do (myself included, I admit I'm guilty of that)...but honestly, it's not a good idea.  There are many reasons it's a bad idea to hang onto old prescriptions.  Just something to think about, you may want to do some "spring cleaning" of the ole medicine cabinet.  ;0)

You really just have to hang in there, this may take a few months to be able to see where you're at and how the Zoloft is going to work, especially if you figure in tapering up much slower than you're doing now...that adds some time, but that's okay!  

Just try to remain patient, it seems like a lifetime, especially when we want to feel better, but a few months is nothing in the grand scheme of things.  And don't be worrying about brain damage and things like that...what you describe are ALL very typical, common start-up side effects of Zoloft.  And remember too, that some of your symptoms very well could be the original anxiety and depression you've sought treatment for.

Lastly, therapy is a must.  I'm a big supporter of meds, because I personally have experienced amazing progress with my panic disorder when taking them, HOWEVER, the meds will only help to control your symptoms..the REAL work happens in therapy.  A therapist can guide you and teach you things you can do on your OWN to help yourself as well.  Don't get stuck in the trap of thinking all you need is a pill to "fix" your anxiety or depression.  Even if you don't have some deep rooted issues, or past trauma, therapy is still important.  There is a big misconception that therapy is only for people who have some kind of past issues that need dealt with.  That's absolutely not true...therapy is much more than that...not only do you get the obvious compassion and support during a rough time, but you learn valuable coping mechanisms.  

Best of luck to you..please update us and let us know how you're feeling.
Avatar universal
Hey all,

     Thanks for the replies and support. I emailed my psychiatrist but he never replied. I did go back down to 25mgs because I was worried 50mgs was over doing it. I felt great at first bc the side effects got much better but now realize the depression/anxiety is already back up (not that it had time to completely lift yet). So I might go back up to the 50mgs.

     As for my "story", I started Zoloft when I first got to college. I had a lot of issues with leaving the nest and thinking I was gonna get HIV for being gay ( got tested so many times and had one doctor tell me my parents were too nice to have a gay son and my religious school skipped HIV in health class bc it was a "gay" thing) had a bad break up (first relationship very unhealthy closeted cheating lies exes etc) and being gay/coming out when I've grown up in a very religious conservative setting (still haven't told parents). I took 50mgs for a couple months. It seemed to help but my health anxiety was still there so a different doctor put me on Paxil. I hated Paxil and felt like I was having heart attacks all the time (even got an EKG and Echo). So I weaned myself off. I was fine for awhile since I felt settled in, had a bf, out to my friends, and was seeing a GREAT school therapist. She moved though so I stopped going. I was still okay for awhile. One day I let myself do a "whip-it" drug and thought I killed half my brain (even got an MRI) and got bad again (anxious/depressed) bf left me etc... So I took Celexa for awhile. I think I only took 20mgs for almost a year, but I weaned off bc I was constantly feeling foggy headed and thought it was affecting my studies. I started exercising a lot and my head cleared up and my body felt great and everything was awesome for about a year. I have accepted being gay (still utterly single) and my hypochondriasis is under control.

Then/now I injured my shoulder badly in the gym last January (had to go to pt etc), only to lay off it and over work/injure my leg, only to do just sit ups and strain my abs (exercise was my obsession to cope I guess). So now I am in a lot of chronic pain and can't work out. I have gotten severely depressed over it. Graduation is coming up in 3 weeks and I am supposed to start medical school in the fall. Now I am questioning if I even want to be a physician anymore ( I was always going to be a vet in the family business-->long story but I just swapped last year full force). I don't know if that is the depression/anxiety talking or if my perspectives have finally shown through with the realization of graduating and moving forward... So I tried lexapro (hated it couldn't function what-so-ever) then now back to Zoloft. I am seeing a therapist to help talk out some things, especially my career choices and what steered me to leave the original plan (controlling big brother beating me to the business is a big part). Problem is I see her less than once a week and graduation is basically here. I am feeling time crunched like I don't have time to heal bc I need to make a decision about my career fast (starting med school or taking a year off to go back the vet route, I have always put so much pressure on myself to succeed I forgot what I really want long-term). I feel utterly trapped. Either decision I make will be extremely hard on my pride for awhile. Problem is I am not in a good state to make such a decision and time is up.
480448 tn?1426952138
Hey there, thanks for checking back in and giving us some more background.  You most definitely have been struggling with anxiety for a while.

I'm going to be honest with you here.  I think one of the reasons you haven't seen more consistent success is because for one, you keep taking matters into your own hands, versus discussing the next step with your doctor, and putting more thought into the med changes/treatment approaches.  Also, you sound as though YOU haven't done a lot of work yourself to address the anxiety.

That's not meant as a criticism,  that's VERY common.  People think if they take their antidepressant every day, and go to a few therapy sessions, they're good to go.  That will bring a person temporary short lived relief, but not more thorough management of the anxiety on a long-term basis.

There are SO many different things you could do to help yourself, on top of trying to find a med that will help with symptom control.  There are self help books, online programs, groups, not to mention all of the more alternative treatments like accupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, yoga, etc.  Also, there's a lot a person can change in their own lives that will make a HUGE difference.  For one, once a person becomes more vigilant about avoiding things or situations that will cause anxiety (ie drugs, alcohol)...they are much better off.  Like the whip-it experience, that's a perfect example of one of those things that an anxious person should probably never be "trying".  In the very least, it shouldn't be a shock when something like that comes along with 4 months of panic and worry.  Those kinds of "decisions" become easier to make as you get older..you're still very young.

You CAN get a better handle on this...and HOW you can do that is by making more of a committment to take the anxiety seriously, realize that most likely, this will be a chornic issue for you to deal with on different levels, life-long.  That means you must work hard to change your thinking patterns, work to change your reactions to anxiety, the worrying, the "what iffing", etc.  ALL of that can be accomplished with the help of a GOOD therapist (preferrably one with knowledge of CBT)...a good therapist will not only teach you hands on ways to combat anxiety and panic in your sessions, but also they will instruct you on things to do on your own to reinforce what you've learned in therapy.  You will learn how to handle your anxiety is REAL life situations.

I'll be honest, it wasn't until I got MUCH more serious, and much more dedicated to the process before I REALLY started seeing significant results, back when I first entered anxiety treatment at age 18.  If you're kind of half-butted approaching it, it won't be as effective.  The "willy-nilly" approach is all too common, mainly because there is an overwhelming belief that meds are a "cure"...so people don't work on getting to the meat of the issues, and wonder why they have struggled so long with out of control anxiety.

So therefore, my recommendation to you is to give the Zoloft a chance, and if you're having side effects, then yes, take it slow, and tell your doctor you want to allow ample time in between dosage increases.  It may take a higher dose for you to notice a more therapeutic level of effectiveness, so again, it's going to take time.  

While you're waiting for the Zoloft to hopefully start controlling your symptoms, get busy finding a good therapist (again, one who knows their way around CBT would be great)..and look into some self-help books. (I'll post a link for resources).   Start setting goals for yourself, and when you start therapy, ask for more resources.  Basically, throw yourself into it...not in a 24/7 obsessive way, but in a committed, daily way, where addressing your anxiety is as much a part of your life as exercising or showering is.

It would be much better if you could spend some time getting the anxiety to a more manageable level before entering medical school, as that is going to be awfully demanding (or before you decide which career path to take).  You can take a year off to accomplish that without doing anything to affect your life plans (other than adding some time onto it, which is fine).  Once your head is in a better place, it will be easier to make those decisions too.  I would NEVER recommend making such huge, life altering decisions in the midst of high levels of chronic anxiety (or depression, whatever the case may be).   That's never a good thing.  I wouldn't advise you to be making those deicisions now...minus taking some time off from school.

MOST important, ALL of the above takes TIME.  not like 20 years, but it's NOT unusual for it to take several months before real significant improvements in your daily levels of anxiety are noticeable.  You've been reinforcing these anxious cycles of thinking for a while, it will take time to learn to UNDO that way of thinking.  TRY as hard as you can to be patient with yourself.  NOT easy to do I know, I've been there.

Best of luck, keep us updated, okay??  
Avatar universal
i went on on zoloft and it really helped me a lot. i got off of it after about 2 months and so far my anxiety has never gotten back to where it was. so, i think it had long term positive effects for me.

the first week i took 1/2 25mg, then i went up to 25mg the second week, and then 3/4 of a 50mg the third and rest of the weeks. i never went up to 50. my side effects were no appetite the first week, vivid dreams, and dizziness the first week. all of this went away after a couple weeks. i felt serious relief around week 3, but as soon as after week one i felt a difference.  i went from always feeling anxious to feeling like something was putting a cap or a lid on my anxiety and keeping it from bubbling up. i would be in situations that used to cause me great anxiety and i'd feel fine!! it was incredible. i felt normal.

i got off zoloft after 2 months only because i hated worrying about it interacting with other medications, alcohol, foods, or herbs. im just not a big medication fan. but i am so happy i went on it and it really helped me through a rough time.

that was my experience. i think you should wait it out but lower the dose down from 50mg. i did 3/4 of a 50 mg pill and it worked great for me.

best of luck.
i am new to this site.  scared, very scared.  my 16 daughter was just prescribed zoloft, because do the stories we hear from so many people we were TOTALLY against it BUT after a doc visit it was prescribed, we come to the realization that she does need it unfortunately!  of all the stories your inspire me and give me hope; I pray she can eventually stop taking it!  like you, it's 7 day 1/2 25mg, then 50.  because she's a youth with daily suicide thoughts, anxiety, panic attacks I am watching her closely.  We are focus on removing sugar, carbs and regular exercise, but as you know, she has to get 'there' praying every minuet! Thanks for sharing, your story relieve some tension
Some input -- if you make a new post, you will get more response probably -- you're responding to one that is 5 years old.  I hope the poster is still around and can respond.  But I would recommend, if she's getting this from a regular doc, to switch her care to the best psychiatrist you can find.  Some of them even specialize in treating young people.  The reason I mention this is that the care of maintenance of those on these meds is very important, especially when you choose to stop taking it.  Psychiatrists do this all day and it's all they do, which doesn't guarantee they're good at it, but if you find a good one, it will go better.  Regular docs only do this occasionally and don't know as much about the different meds and how people react to them.  Some are very good, but that's my recommendation.  Also, if she's truly suicidal, even at her young age, meds are probably necessary.  But you have to do therapy if you ever want her off the med.  There may be a reason this is happening (often there really isn't) and if there is, that can be worked on.  There are also techniques psychologists who specialize in anxiety know that other professionals don't.  You also want to make sure your doctors are really really good, meaning they really really checked all the physiological causes of symptoms that look like mental illness.  Most docs don't do a good job of this, it is what it is.  Thyroid, for example, is one docs usually don't test properly for.  Blood sugar is another that only specialists know how to truly test for.  Food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, food intolerances, hormonal problems can all cause this stuff and a drug that treats mental illness won't deal with it.  Hopefully, the med levels her out, you get her therapy, she gets over it quickly, and gets off the med sooner rather than later, and does that very carefully.  But don't get complacent because she's on a med -- we do that, and then we never solve the problem or find the cause if there is one.  Peace.
Have an Answer?
Top Anxiety Answerers
Avatar universal
Arlington, VA
370181 tn?1428180348
Arlington, WA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Find out what can trigger a panic attack – and what to do if you have one.
A guide to 10 common phobias.
Take control of tension today.
These simple pick-me-ups squash stress.
Don’t let the winter chill send your smile into deep hibernation. Try these 10 mood-boosting tips to get your happy back
Want to wake up rested and refreshed?