9 Zoloft Side Effects You Need To Know About Before Taking The Drug

Photo: getty
 Zoloft side effects you need to know about it before you take the drug

Whether needing help balancing your mood or dealing with anxiety, many people have turned to Zoloft. You may have heard of it, but exactly what is zoloft Zoloft works by regulating the hormone seretonin, which helps to elevate mood and decrease anxiety. It’s the latest in a line of remedies with decreasing side effects.

“In the 1970s, the search for new anti-depressants was intense because of the dramatic side effects of the first generation. So called second-generation antidepressants were developed with differing actions on the brain,” says Dr. Ryan Neinstein of Neinstein Plastic Surgery. “The realization that more highly receptor-selective agents would reduce the number and type of adverse effects, but with increased 'potency' because of their selectivity, spurred the development of the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).”

RELATED: 5 Things You Must Try Before Turning To Mood-Boosting Medicines When You're Depressed

While these new drugs function well, there can still be major Zoloft side effects that not everyone wants to talk about, two of which are weight gain and sexual dysfunction.

Dr. Neinstein continues, “The psychological sequelae of weight gain and sexual dysfunction can many times be more traumatic than the depression the medication was being prescribed for. Luckily, we have many alternatives, and your psychiatrist or primary care physician will be able to work with you to find the right medication for you and your lifestyle.”

So, what are the additional side effects of Zoloft? While many are common, there are others that can be serious, so please consult your doctor if you find yourself suffering from certain side effects.

1. Suicide

In teenage boys, suicide is particularly common.

According to Eric Ascher, a family medicine physician, “This class of medication comes with a 'Black Box Warning', aka in a black box, on the medication, and it suggests this as a risk. Before you start taking this medication, your doctor should let you know that if you feel any slight idea of suicide, to call them immediately.”

2. Erectile dysfunction

This side effect occurs in up to 25 percent of men, so you may want to consider lowering the dosage. Be sure to check with your doctor before doing so.

“While a patient’s mood may be elevated on this medication, oftentimes the lack of sexual desire or ability to achieve orgasm brings anxiety and depression on in a different way that requires switching medication classes. If you suffer this side effect while on this medication, you should feel comfortable sharing this information with your doctor; they will help you try a different medication that will not affect this component of your life,” Dr. Asher advises.

RELATED: I Tried To Kill Myself When I Was 7 Because Of My Antidepressants

3. Difficulty finding a balance

Many patients want this medication for a quick fix, but unfortunately, these medications take 4-8 weeks until the full effect is achieved. In the mean time, they may find changes in mood. But your hormones do not respond well to shock, so a slow taper will help restore that balance.

“Within that time, your mood may dip slightly before it comes back up. If you are unhappy with this medication, you cannot stop it immediately. You need to contact your doctor so you can be slowly taken off the medication to prevent side effects,” Dr. Ascher warns.

4. Anxiety

While it may seem strange that a medication designed to curb anxiety would create more of it, this can be a common side effect of Zoloft.

“Some patients become restless, have difficulty sleeping, and this medication does not help their anxiety. Share all of this with your doctor, so you both can have a discussion of pros and cons,” suggests Dr. Ascher.

You should talk to your doctor if you are feeling increased nervousness, palpitations, fevers, tremors, breathing changes, or seizures. Although rare, these are very serious side effects that must be cared for immediately.

5. Heart issues

"Zoloft might, in some people who already have a heart irregularity, cause a disturbance in the electrical activity of the heart, which may result in palpitations or irregular beating of the heart; the heart needs sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium to function properly, and this can be disrupted with Zoloft," Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, medical director at City MD, warns.

6. Constipation

Constipation is another common side effect of Zoloft.

"Anti-depressants such as Zoloft block a chemical in the body which helps with muscle contractions of the intestines. When this is blocked it slows down digestion, resulting in difficulty passing stool; patients strain to have a bowel movement, resulting in hemorrhoids," Dr. Nesheiwat says.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

7. Insomnia

Some antidepressants may cause insomnia, making it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep. In this case, consider taking your antidepressant in the morning if your doctor approves, and avoid caffeinated food and drinks, particularly late in the day.

Dr. Constantine George, M.D., Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, recommends that patients "...get regular physical activity or exercise, but complete it several hours before bedtime so it doesn't interfere with your sleep. If insomnia is an ongoing problem, ask your doctor about taking a sedating medication at bedtime, or ask whether taking a low dose of a sedating antidepressant (such as trazodone or mirtazapine)  before bed might help."

8. Dry mouth

Dry mouth is a very common side effect of many antidepressants. Experts are unsure why antidepressants in general cause dry mouth, but some suggest it's linked to changes in brain chemistry and gastrointestinal function. If dry mouth is left untreated, it can cause further oral health issues.

So, consider these strategies: "Sip water regularly or suck on ice chips. Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and caffeinated beverages because they can make your mouth drier, and breathe through your nose, not your mouth," advises Dr. George, who also thinks it will help to brush your teeth twice a day, floss daily, and see your dentist regularly.

He continues, "Having a dry mouth can increase your risk of getting cavities. If dry mouth continues to be extremely bothersome despite the efforts above, ask your doctor the pros and cons of reducing the dosage of the antidepressant."

9. Blurred vision

According to Dr. George, this is also a common side effect. "It usually goes away on its own within a couple of weeks of starting an antidepressant. With certain antidepressants, it may be an ongoing issue," she says. Consider using special eyedrops to relieve dryness if that's an issue.

RELATED: 6 Very Unexpected Side Effects Of Finally Going On Antidepressants

Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her at alywalansky@gmail.com.