How Long Does it Take for Zoloft to Work?

By Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
March 10, 2022

If you’re taking Zoloft (sertraline) for depression or anxiety, you are probably wondering how long it takes to work.

The timeline can all depend on the severity of your condition, how long you’ve been taking Zoloft, and the daily dosage prescribed by your healthcare provider. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the standard dosage for Zoloft,how it works, what to do if you miss your daily dose or think you’ve overdosed, and the common side effects of Zoloft.

What is Zoloft?

Sertraline, known under its brand name, Zoloft, is a commonly prescribed antidepressant. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991, and in 2017 was prescribed over 38 million times for a variety of mental health disorders. 

Zoloft has been known to have a great effect on patients for improving their mental health conditions.

Zoloft uses

Zoloft is prescribed for many different types of depression and anxiety disorders.

It is one of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs for major depressive disorders. Other SSRIs include escitalopram (Lexapro), citalopram (Celexa), and fluoxetine (Prozac)

Zoloft treats the following conditions: 

  • Major depressive disorder in adults and children 10 years of age and olderSocial anxiety
  • Panic disorder 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder in adults, children aged 6-17 years  

How Zoloft works

Zoloft works in the brain by increasing the availability of serotonin. Serotonin is one of the brain’s neurotransmitters, sending signals between neurons that affect your mood.

Since the neurons in the brain like to absorb serotonin quickly, those with depression and anxiety disorders may not have enough serotonin. 

Zoloft works as an inhibitor to the brain’s fast absorption of serotonin.

By slowing down the neuron’s absorption of serotonin, this allows your brain to transmit more messages, effectively increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter in the brain.

As a result, many patients with depression and other mental health conditions experience an improvement in mood.

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How Quickly Does Zoloft Work?

Zoloft does not work overnight, so a little patience is required.

Similar to other antidepressants, Zoloft slowly increases the amount of serotonin available in the brain. 

You cannot expect your brain chemistry to change overnight, but the good news is that you may notice a change within a couple of weeks.

Many patients report an improvement in their symptoms within the first two weeks, however, most do not report a complete difference until at least four to six weeks. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, many patients first report an improvement in their energy levels, sleep, and appetite. These improvements eventually lead to a reduction in the symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Those with more severe depression may not notice a significant change until six weeks or longer.

You should remain hopeful that Zoloft will work, but if you notice little change after six weeks, then you should speak to your healthcare provider.

Standard Dosage for Zoloft

The standard dosage for Zoloft depends on your mental health condition.

Zoloft is generally available in tablet form in dosage strengths of 25 mg, 50 mg, or 100 mg. It’s also available as an oral solution. 

Your healthcare provider will prescribe the dose that is appropriate for you but it is helpful to know the average dosage of Zoloft. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), here are the standard dosages for these common mood disorders: 

  • Major depressive disorder (adult): 50-200 mg daily
  • PTSD: 50-200 mg daily 
  • Social anxiety disorder: 50-200mg daily 
  • OCD (adult): 50-200mg mg daily 
  • PMDD: 50-100 mg per day during the luteal phase 

Missed dose

Nobody is perfect. At one point or another, we all forget to take our daily medication.

If you miss a single dose of Zoloft, you can relax knowing it is not the end of the world. However, it is still important to take your medication regularly as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

If you miss a dose of Zoloft and it is less than 8 hours late, you should take your medication as soon as you remember. If the medication dose was due over 8 hours ago, simply take your next dose at your regularly scheduled time. Discard the missed dose. 

Do not take an extra dose to make up for the one you missed. 

If you miss doses or abruptly stop your medication, you may be susceptible to withdrawal symptoms.

This is known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome and occurs in 20% of Zoloft patients who suddenly stop taking the drug.

With discontinuation syndrome, you may experience cold or flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, excessive tiredness, body aches, insomnia, and dizziness

If your discontinuation symptoms are due to missed doses, the symptoms should go away once you start taking Zoloft consistently again.

If your symptoms are due to abruptly stopping the medication, contact your healthcare provider for further recommendations.

If at any time your symptoms are severe or you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, excessive sleepiness, or uncontrollable vomiting, go to the nearest healthcare facility.

Zoloft overdose

Taking more than your scheduled dosage can lead to serious health issues. Whether done on purpose or accidentally, taking more than your prescribed dose of Zoloft could cause the following symptoms: 

  • Nausea 
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Fainting 
  • Dizziness 
  • Vomiting 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Changes in blood pressure 
  • Tremors 
  • Seizures 

In rare cases, taking more Zoloft than your prescribed dosage can result in extremely high levels of serotonin. This is known as serotonin syndrome.

If you have too much serotonin in the brain, you may experience diarrhea, confusion, or headaches. In severe cases, you could experience hallucinations, seizures, or end up in a coma. 

If you think you have overdosed on Zoloft, or are experiencing any off the aforementioned symptoms, call the Poison Control hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or seek medical attention immediately. The hotline is free and confidential to use. 

Common Side Effects of Zoloft

Some common side effects of taking Zoloft include nausea, weight gain, insomnia, headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, or loss of appetite

Zoloft has been known to cause a low libido in some patients, or make it difficult to orgasm. The good news is that this side effect usually improves after a few weeks of taking the medication. 

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When to See a Medical Provider

You should see a healthcare provider if you experience any serious side effects such as hallucinations, confusion, vomiting, seizures, or any signs of an allergic reaction.

As previously stated, some mild side effects are expected when taking Zoloft but if the symptoms persist or are bothersome, let your healthcare provider know.

If you start experiencing any suicidal thoughts, aggression, panic attacks, or worsening depression or anxiety, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately and go to the nearest medical facility.

How K Health Can Help

Think you might need a prescription for Zoloft (Sertraline)?

K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine if Zoloft is right for you.

Get started with our free assessment, which will tell you in minutes if treatment could be a good fit. If yes, we’ll connect you right to a clinician who can prescribe medication and have it shipped right to your door.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Zoloft work immediately?
Zoloft will not work immediately however, it can have a positive positive effect on a patient’s energy level, sleep and appetite within the first 1-2 weeks.
How long does Zoloft take to kick in?
Most patients do not report a major change until four to six weeks after starting Zoloft, especially if they have severe symptoms. If you do not notice any change in your symptoms after six weeks on Zoloft, then you should speak to your healthcare provider about other treatment options.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC

Nena Luster is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 14 years of experience including emergency medicine, urgent care, and family practice. 

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