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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 4 minutes read

Sertraline is a medication used to help people with mental health issues. It works by increasing a chemical in the brain called serotonin and falls under the family of medication called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which helps to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Sertraline is commonly used to treat conditions like depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. While it can be helpful for many people, it may have some side effects like nausea or insomnia. Your doctor will determine if sertraline is safe and suitable for your specific situation.

What is sertraline for?

Sertraline has many uses due to the way in which it works. These include:

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Sertraline is a widely recognized first-line treatment for adults experiencing depressive episodes associated with MDD. It helps improve mood and overall well-being by addressing the chemical imbalances in the brain linked to depression.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Individuals diagnosed with GAD, a condition characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry, can benefit from sertraline's anxiolytic properties. It helps reduce anxiety levels and aids in managing persistent worry.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Sertraline is often prescribed to individuals with OCD to alleviate obsessions and compulsions, allowing for improved daily functioning and reduced distress.

Panic Disorder

Sertraline is an effective treatment for panic disorder, a condition marked by recurrent panic attacks. It helps reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks, enabling patients to regain control over their lives.

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

For individuals with social anxiety disorder, sertraline can alleviate anxiety related to social situations and interactions, facilitating improved social functioning and confidence.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Sertraline is utilized to manage symptoms associated with PTSD, such as nightmares, flashbacks, and emotional numbing, contributing to enhanced coping and recovery.

How does sertraline work?

Sertraline's mechanism of action is primarily centred around its role as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood, emotions, and behavior.

Sertraline, as an SSRI, selectively inhibits the reuptake of serotonin. By doing so, sertraline increases the concentration of serotonin, effectively prolonging its action and enhancing its effects on mood regulation. This increased serotonin level leads to improved mood, reduced anxiety, and alleviation of symptoms associated with depression and other mental health disorders.

Sertraline interactions

Drug Interactions

Sertraline can interact with various medications, potentially affecting their efficacy or causing adverse effects. Some common drug interactions include:

  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Increased risk of bleeding when NSAIDs are used concurrently with sertraline.

  • Antiplatelet and Anticoagulant Drugs: The combination may increase the risk of bleeding.

  • Antipsychotics: Co-administration with antipsychotic medications may increase sedation and cognitive impairment.

Food Interactions

Sertraline is not known to have significant interactions with food. However, alcohol consumption should be avoided or minimized while on sertraline treatment, as alcohol can worsen side effects and may interfere with treatment efficacy.

Herbal and Dietary Supplement Interactions

St. John's Wort, a popular herbal supplement used for depression, may interact with sertraline, leading to reduced effectiveness and increasing the risk of serotonin syndrome.

Are there any side effects?

While sertraline is generally well-tolerated, it may cause some side effects in certain individuals. Sertraline, like other antidepressants, is typically prescribed for a minimum of six months to a year and has to be taken for a minimum of 6 weeks before its effects are shown. In fact, often people will see a negative effect before a positive one. Do not ever stop sertraline or any other antidepressants abruptly, unless directed by your doctor. It is essential for patients to be aware of potential side effects and to report any concerning symptoms to their healthcare provider. Common side effects of sertraline include:

It is important to note that while most side effects are mild and transient, some patients may experience more severe adverse effects. Rare but potentially serious side effects include serotonin syndrome (characterized by agitation, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, and high body temperature) and allergic reactions. Patients should seek immediate medical attention if they experience any unusual or concerning symptoms like suicidal thoughts.


Sertraline, a widely prescribed SSRI, offers effective relief for individuals experiencing various mental health conditions. Its mechanism of action, potential interactions and side effects are understood. It is tolerated well by many people. If you have any queries or issues, you can always speak to your doctor about sertraline.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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