Zoloft is the brand name of a prescription antidepressant. The generic name is sertraline. People wonder can Zoloft change your personality, and the answer is a little complex. Overall, an antidepressant-like Zoloft won’t change your personality, but there can be side effects to be aware of, which we discuss below.
What is Zoloft?
Zoloft is an antidepressant that is also for the treatment of anxiety. Zoloft or sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs work by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin. Serotonin is sometimes known as the feel-good neurotransmitter.
More serotonin is available in the system when you take Zoloft or other SSRIs. This medicine is among the most frequently prescribed psychiatric drugs in the country.
Along with generally treating depression and anxiety, Zoloft may specifically help with psychiatric disorders like major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. The medication also has approval for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
When an SSRI like Zoloft blocks the reuptake of serotonin into neurons, it makes it more available. When more serotonin is available, it improves the transmission of messages between the neurons.
SSRIs have selective in the name because they don’t really affect other neurotransmitters—they primarily affect serotonin levels in depressed patients and people with similar disorders. These medicines may help with mild to major depression.
Other SSRI antidepressant treatment options that work similarly to Zoloft are Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, and Prozac.
There are other options like tricyclic antidepressants and atypical antidepressants for someone who can’t take an SSRI.
Side Effects of an SSRI
There can be adverse reactions to taking an SSRI antidepressant medication, although these drugs are considered relatively safe and low-risk for many people. A lot of people won’t experience any side effects.
The people who do experience them often go away after the initial few weeks of treatment. If the side effects remain and are problematic, your doctor might suggest you try a different medication.
Possible Zoloft common side effects can include:
- Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Nervousness or agitation
- Sexual problems and sexual dysfunction
- Reduced sexual desire and changes in your sex life
- Appetite changes leading to weight gain or loss
- Rare allergic reactions
Your doctor should go over the side effects with you and decide whether Zoloft might be safe for you.
The FDA requires all antidepressant medications, including Zoloft, to have a black box warning. A black box warning is the highest warning for prescription medication. Children, teens, and young adults under the age of 25 might have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors when they take an antidepressant, particularly in the initial weeks after they start it or when changing the dose.
Anyone who starts a medicine like Zoloft should remember this. Their loved ones should watch for worsening symptoms of depression, emotional instability, or changes in behavior. If you or someone you love has suicidal thoughts or behaviors on an antidepressant, contact your doctor immediately.
In the long term, antidepressants tend to lower the risk of suicide.
Serotonin syndrome can be a severe and potentially deadly risk of antidepressants. The risk of serotonin syndrome usually stems from combining multiple medicines that simultaneously raise levels of the neurotransmitter.
Serotonin syndrome can cause extreme agitation, hallucinations, panic attacks, and delusions. Some symptoms can be similar to manic episodes. Serotonin syndrome can also lead to blood pressure, coma, and rapid heart rate changes. Dizziness, shakiness, seizures, and tremors are possible effects of serotonin syndrome.
If you suddenly stop using an antidepressant for your clinical depression symptoms, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from an SSRI can include flu-like symptoms.
Zoloft Drug Interactions
If your doctor is thinking about starting you on Zoloft or any other antidepressant drugs, you should tell them about all the medications and supplements you take. There can be interactions and adverse effects of combining them.
- For example, pimozide is a medicine that has potential interactions with sertraline.
- MAOIs taken with sertraline can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome, as does taking it with linezolid medicine.
- Combining an antidepressant with blood thinners can increase the risk of bleeding.
Zoloft Side Effects on Sexual Functioning
Zoloft’s side effects in men and also women can be sexual. These side effects are sometimes known as SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. For example, can Zoloft cause erectile dysfunction? The answer is yes, at least temporarily. Sexual side effects are one of the most common complaints people have about antidepressants.
When you take an SSRI, you feel calmer and less anxious because of increased serotonin levels. Those feelings of calmness can lower your libido, however. The effects of an SSRI can cause the hormones that respond to sex not to transmit their messages to their brain. This isn’t just one of the Zoloft side effects in men. It affects women’s libido as well in some cases.
- Women may experience delayed or blocked orgasm and delayed lubrication.
- Women may also have a lack of desire for sexual activity.
- Females may experience discomfort during sex when they’re on an antidepressant.
- For men, along with generally decreased libido, SSRIs can make it difficult to get or keep an erection.
- Men sometimes report they have delayed or blocked orgasms too.
While some antidepressants can have sexual effects, you can work with your health care provider and likely find one that won’t cause those side effects for you.
One of the things you can also talk to your doctor about is waiting a few months. Often, the sexual side effects of antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction will subside after a period of time. It may take weeks or months for this to happen, so you have to be patient as your body adjusts.
You can also talk to your partner and prepare them to be patient with you if your desire for sex is lower for a period of time. If you leave your depression or mental health disorder untreated, you’re probably also going to have a low libido and deal with sexual side effects. Treatment and getting a clinical response can be a better alternative, and you can get past the side effects.
Does Zoloft Change Your Personality?
There is a fear about taking an antidepressant in Zoloft-treated patients because it could change their personality as part of the potential side effects. An antidepressant shouldn’t change your personality. The key is to find what works for you regarding the specific medication and the dose you take.
An antidepressant prescribed and used correctly should help you feel like yourself rather than someone else. An antidepressant won’t help you if you aren’t depressed—they don’t make you happy. These medicines are meant to gradually get you to the point of functioning that’s normal for you.
It’s rare for personality changes and apathy to occur on an SSRI in depressed patients. If you experience anything that makes you feel like it’s causing you to be apathetic or not feel like yourself, you should talk to your doctor.
If you do start taking Zoloft and it changes your personality, it’s not something you should ignore. You should talk to your doctor, and they may have a recommendation, such as changing drugs or doses. They could also tell you to wait and see if it gets better after giving it some time. The goal with an antidepressant is never to make you feel like someone else or like a zombie. Instead, a good dose and medicine for you will help you feel like your best self.
Please contact the Mental Health Center of San Diego today by calling (858) 258-9883 if you’d like to learn more about mild to severe depression, dealing with depressive symptoms, and mental health treatment.