Why I Stopped Taking Sertraline – and Why I’m Back on The Meds

Several years ago, I was struggling with the devastating effects of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). This was a result of my traumatic childhood experiences as the scapegoat daughter of a narcissistic father. My symptoms included severe anxiety, depression, nightmares, and flashbacks. I had reached a point where I felt that I couldn’t go on living like this anymore. Desperate for relief, my doctor prescribed me medication to manage the symptoms of CPTSD. She explained the side effects of Sertraline, which included weight gain, but I was so concerned about my mental health that I brushed them all off.

A few weeks after starting my prescription for Sertraline, I began to experience relief from the symptoms of CPTSD. My brain calmed down and I was better able to focus on engaging in the healing process with my therapist. Through this process, I developed a greater understanding of how my traumatic childhood experiences had impacted me and how to implement coping strategies that would help me find peace within myself and better manage my emotions.

What is Sertraline?

Sertraline is used to treat a variety of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It belongs to the class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which work by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for regulating mood and emotions. By blocking the reabsorption of serotonin, SSRIs like Sertraline can help maintain better balance among neurotransmitters in the brain leading to improved emotional regulation.

As a result of taking Sertraline, people often experience improved moods, memory, and sleep patterns. They can also experience reduced anxiety levels, fewer depressive thoughts, and increased levels of energy. On the whole, Sertraline can help to improve relationships and increase overall satisfaction in life.

Common Side Effects of Sertraline

While Sertraline has shown to be an effective antidepressant, it also comes with a variety of side effects. Commonly reported side effects include nausea, diarrhea, headache, dry mouth/thirst, insomnia, fatigue and drowsiness, sweating and hot flashes, and decreased sex drive.

The following are the most common side effects of this medication.

Gastrointestinal problems – Some people who take Sertraline may experience gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, or constipation. These side effects are usually mild and tend to resolve on their own. However, if they are severe or persist, you should speak to your doctor.

Headaches – Headaches are a common side effect of sertraline. If you experience headaches that are severe or persistent, you should speak to your doctor.

Dizziness or light-headedness – Dizziness and light-headedness are common side effects of sertraline. If you experience these symptoms, you should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery. You should also avoid drinking alcohol, as it can worsen these symptoms.

Drowsiness or fatigue – Drowsiness and fatigue are common side effects of sertraline. If you experience these symptoms, you should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery. You should also avoid drinking alcohol, as it can worsen these symptoms.

Dry mouth – Dry mouth is a common side effect of sertraline. To help relieve this symptom, you should drink plenty of fluids and chew sugar-free gum or candy. You should also avoid tobacco products and alcohol, as they can worsen the symptom

Sexual side effects – Sexual side effects are common with sertraline use. These side effects can include decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and delayed ejaculation.

Weight gain – Weight gain is a common side effect of Sertraline as it can increase appetite and cause fluid retention. Additionally, it can also lead to changes in metabolism and fat storage in the body.

Why Did I Stop Taking Sertraline?

I decided that my CPTSD symptoms were now under control and that I could stop taking the meds. I did not tell my doctor about my decision, because I knew that she would advise me against it, and I did not want to hear that. So I went rogue.

Sertraline led to serious weight gain

When I started taking sertraline, I was told that it could lead to weight gain, but to be honest I didn’t realize it could be so significant. Initially it crept up on me unawares, but soon enough I was noticing it in the mirror. One year later, I had gained over 20 pounds and my clothes did not fit any more.

The main reason I stopped taking Sertraline was because of the weight gain. It was really starting to impact my self-esteem. Medical studies have found that on average a person taking Sertraline puts on around 5kg per year. This is due to a mix of factors, including an increase in appetite and a decrease in metabolism.

For me, the weight gain was really noticeable and started to impact the way I saw myself. I felt less attractive and more self-conscious, which led to me avoiding social situations, and I would come up with excuses not to see friends or go out, which only made me feel more isolated and depressed.

I got cocky

Secondly, as happens with many people who struggle with mental health issues, I got cocky. I had been taking the meds for over a year, and once my moods stabilized and I no longer had any meltdowns, I convinced myself that I didn’t need the Sertraline anymore.

This is a really common attitude among people with mental illness. We think that once the meds start working, we don’t need them anymore. But this is not the case. Mental illness is a chronic condition, like diabetes or high blood pressure, and just because the symptoms are under control doesn’t mean the illness has gone away.

What Happened when I Stopped Taking the Sertraline?

At first, everything seemed fine. I congratulated myself for ignoring my psychiatrist’s advice. See, I know myself better than she does, I said to myself. I knew I could do this.

In fact initially it felt like the world was brighter. I realised that I was feeling emotions more vividly than before. Happiness, gratitude, love – they were all more intense. It was like the Sertraline had numbed my ability to feel emotions, and now they were all coming back full force.

But then, gradually, things started to unravel. A few weeks in, I started to spiral. My moods swings became more pronounced and I found myself getting angry and irritable for no reason. I was snapping at my friends and family, and I felt like I was walking around with a dark cloud over my head. My nerve endings were jangling and I couldn’t concentrate or focus on anything.

However even then I insisted with myself that I was doing the right thing, because putting on weight was bad for my physical health. I was in denial about how bad my mental health had become.

Then the itching began – it started as a mild irritation, but soon it became all-consuming. I was scratching myself raw, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t stop. I got some relief by taking antihistamine pills, but the irony did not escape me, I had substituted one daily pill for another.

It took a really serious meltdown, complete with serious suicide ideation, for me to finally realize that I needed to go back on the meds.

I’m back on the right path

I finally did what I should have done much earlier: I talked to my doctor. I shared my concerns about Sertraline and the weight gain and other issues, and she suggested switching to a different medication. By seeking out professional help, I was able to find a suitable alternative that allowed me to manage my symptoms without risking any further health complications.

So I am now taking Prozac (fluoxetine), which belongs to the same class of drugs as Sertraline – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and increases the amount of serotonin, a natural chemical in the brain that helps to maintain mental balance. The main difference is that Prozac does not lead to the same dramatic weight gain as Sertraline.

Now that I am back on med, I am starting to feel like myself again. The weight gain is a small price to pay for having my mental health under control. While it will take some weeks for the chemical imbalance in my brain to right itself, I am already feeling calmer and more stable.

I know that for some people, going off their meds can be the right decision. But for me, staying on them is the best choice I can make for myself.

This does not mean that I have given up on my physical health. I have booked a personal trainer and I am working out with her twice a week. And while I have no intention to diet, because I think that diets are counter-productive, my husband and I are making an effort to incorporate more vegetables and health options in our family meals. I am determined to get healthy, both mentally and physically.


In conclusion, my experience has taught me that mental health is important and should not be taken lightly. It can take a long time to find the right medication, but it is worth the effort. And while I am still dealing with some of the side effects of my meds, I have accepted that they are not as bad as the alternative. I am now taking my mental health seriously, and I am determined to ensure that it stays in balance.

Important information for anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please act immediately. Contact a mental health professional or call a suicide hotline in your area.

In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources.

You can call the Lifeline at +1 800 273 8255. They also have a chat function on their website that you can use if you do not feel like talking.

In Canada, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention provides resources and support to those affected by suicide.

In the United Kingdom you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Helpline or call them on 0800 689 5652.

If you are in another country, please visit this page for a list of international suicide hotlines.

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