All about sertraline

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Sertraline is a medication approved by the FDA to treat a number of psychiatric conditions, including:

  • Major depressive disorder (depression)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

It is sometimes used to treat other conditions, including:

  • Binge eating disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (anxiety)
  • Premature ejaculation

Brand names

Sertraline is available under a variety of different brand names, including:

  • Zoloft
  • Eleva
  • Lustral


Sertraline is available as an oral solution and as oral tablets.


Sertraline was first approved for use as a medical treatment in 1991.

Drug class

Sertraline is an antidepressant. It is a particular type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).

Mechanism of action

Sertraline works by blocking the action of proteins in the brain called serotonin transporters. When serotonin transporters are deactivated, the amount of available serotonin in the brain increases.

Serotonin is a hormone that is involved in regulating processes such as mood, behavior, appetite, perception, fear and stress. Sertraline may also increase the levels of dopamine, another hormone that is involved in regulating mood and behavior.

Changing the level of serotonin and dopamine in the brain can therefore have an effect on conditions including depression and anxiety.

What’s the difference between sertraline and other antidepressants?

When determining an appropriate treatment plan, clinicians will consider a variety of factors relevant to the patient, including things like their age, the specific condition(s) they have, other treatments they are already on, and the side effects of the treatment.

Compared to other SSRIs, including escitalopram, fluoxetine, and citalopram, escitalopram may be structurally different, may be effective at a different dose, and may be metabolized and excreted differently by the body.

Sertraline is one of only a few antidepressants approved for use in pediatric patients with OCD.

Because sertraline also affects dopamine levels, it may have increased effectiveness in the treatment of certain conditions, compared to other SSRIs like escitalopram or citalopram which only affect serotonin levels.

Compared to some other classes of antidepressants, SSRIs like sertraline may have fewer or less severe side effects.

Side effects

It is important to note that there may be increased risk for suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents and young adults taking antidepressants for depression or other psychiatric disorders.

Sertraline may also make the heart beat faster or irregularly.

The most common side effects (>5% of patients) of sertraline include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Indigestion
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Decreased libido
  • Increased sweating

Special instructions

The safety and action of sertraline has not been studied in children without OCD.

Patients taking another type of antidepressant called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MOAIs) should not take sertraline.

Patients taking an antipsychotic drug called pimozide should not take sertraline.

Patients taking a medication called disulfiram should not take sertraline oral solution.


  1. Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline. [Updated 2023 Feb 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan. Available from:
  2. Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) US Prescribing Information. 2023. Available from:

Olivia Holland
Medical Writer