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How long do you have to take Zoloft before it works?

The early days: Zoloft and surveillance

If you’ve just started taking Zoloft, you probably want to know when the medicine is going to kick in. The good news is that some symtpoms may ease very quickly. Other symptoms may take a few weeks before you notice improvements. Regardless, schedule regular and frequent visits with your prescribing doctor during these early days. Why? Because monitoring and surveillance are an important aspect of treatment via antidpressants due to the risks associated with SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidpressant medications.

Your doctor will want to see you often while you are taking sertraline, especially at the beginning of any anti-depressant treatment because clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior are possible. Changes in dosage, or discontinuation of the medicine may be recommended. Additionally, ask your family or caregiver(s) to observe you closely and communicate with your Zoloft-prescribing doctor. Sometimes you cannot see changes that people close to you observe.

Common improvements week-by-week on Zoloft

1-2 weeks after taking Zoloft

In clinical studies, people taking Zoloft in 50-200 mg doses once per day experienced steady-state sertraline plasma levels approximately one week after they started the medication. Some symptoms may improve before there you notice improved mood or interest in activities, however. But these easing of first symptoms is a good sign that the SSRI is working, and that relief for mood related symptoms is coming. The most common effects reported in the first week or two after starting Zoloft include:

  • changes in appetite
  • decreased need for sleep
  • improved sleep
  • increased energy
  • less disturbances during sleep

3-6 weeks after taking Zoloft

After you start taking Zoloft regularly as prescribed, symptoms of mental health disorders such as MDD, OCD, PTSD, or PMDD gradually decrease over a period of weeks. Like similar SSRI medications, sertraline may take several weeks to be fully effective. It’s important to allow sufficient time to work before you ask your doctor to switch. Some common effects reported 3-6 weeks after starting Zoloft include:

  • improved concentration
  • improved mood
  • improved sleep
  • increased appetite
  • increased energy
  • increased interest in activities
  • less bloating, tension or breast tenderness
  • less irritability
  • relief from compulsions (repetitive, ritualized behaviors)
  • relief from feeling worthless/guilty/ hopeless/ helpless
  • relief from obsessions (unwanted, recurrent and disturbing thoughts)
  • relief from psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • relief from sad or depressed mood
  • relief from thoughts of death

Long term treatment with Zoloft

Zoloft can be an effective and safe antidepressant. In fact, once physical and mental health symptoms normalize, doctors may recommend long-term treatment with Zoloft to help prevent the return of symptoms related to mental health disorders. But only your prescribing doctor can determine the length of Zoloft treatment that is right for you. Be sure to check in regularly with your doctor about doses and effects of Zoloft. And if you want to stop Zoloft, be sure that you do so under medical supervision. It is wise to work together to prevent unnecessary risks to your health and well-being.

Reference sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI Zoloft (sertraline) review

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11 Responses to “How long do you have to take Zoloft before it works?
Ned Wicker
10:11 pm June 15th, 2011

The key to this story is three words:

take as prescribed

Many people take Zoloft but few take as prescribed. They think if one pill is good two will be better, a huge mistake!!!

Daughter of Zoloft User
3:20 pm June 20th, 2011

My parents were using Zoloft for a while, and although I sensed that my father benefited from the drug, his underlying issues causing depression remained. Now that he’s off Zoloft, his mood is bad and his depression present.

2:45 pm June 30th, 2011

I do wonder if medications like Zoloft are helpful or harmful in the long term…are there any of you out there with long-term Zoloft using experience?

Sly Iorliam
4:15 pm March 11th, 2012

I have used Sertraline for over 6 years now and can say it is an effective depressant. My Doctor had to increase the dose from 50 mg to 100 mg daily following a traumatic experience I had one year ago. Its action is enhanced by lots of exercises.
So far no adverse reaction.

Jaqueline R.
1:17 pm November 15th, 2012

My dr wants me to take zoloft but I’m terrified of the side-effects of any of the GAD meds. I don’t know what to do. I feel like, if I get on that med train I will never be the same.

2:06 pm November 15th, 2012

Hi Jaqueline. I’d suggest that you make a list of all of your concerns, including the belief that your brain will be permanently changed after taking Zoloft. Take the list to your doctor and seek advice. Additionally, consult with a pharmacist about your concerns. And get some facts about the long term use of Zoloft before you make the decision about whether or not to choose this medication.

Jaqueline Roberts
2:15 pm November 15th, 2012

Thank you for your insight and suggestions. I have done the things you suggest but was not satisfied with my dr’s explanations. His remarks seemed so at odds with what I read on net sites such as this. I have never taken any meds of this type, only a very minor amount of Xanax (.25 twice a day) for the past 20+ years since I had panic attacks at work. I think I’ll just “soldier on” as they say and deal with my anxiety as best I can. I really should be strong enough to cope with what life is left to me. Thanks, once again, for your concern. Best to you.

3:39 pm June 13th, 2014

I have been on the drug for little over a week. I am unable to achieve an orgasm.
However he put on another drug to counter that side effect. I hope it works.

3:07 am February 12th, 2016

I am on day 11 of Zoloft 25mg prescribed for anxiety. So far, I hate this drug. My anxiety is ten times worse, headaches just about everyday, dizziness, you name it. I’m supposed to “stick with it” for another few days. It’s torture.

9:15 pm March 3rd, 2016

I have taken Sertraline now for 8 days and I just notice an improvement today. I felt more depressed and anxious and had sleep disturbances and restless legs, but they’re all but gone today. I almost quit taking it but hung in there. Hope it continues to improve. Was on Celexa for years and it only partially worked and would poop out after a few months so my hope it that this one works long term as I have chronic depression and anxiety.

2:51 am April 19th, 2016

I suffer from OCD and began taking Zoloft 5 weeks ago. Side effects are gone. Depression kinda gone. OCD still there, though not as powerful or annoying as before. Currently take 200 mg a day. Not a magic pill. Neither was the prozac I took last year. But still better than nothing.

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