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 doctor prescribed me medication to manage my symptoms, which included severe anxiety, depression, nightmares, and flashbacks. She explained the side effects of Sertraline (Zoloft), which included weight gain, but I was so concerned about my mental health that I brushed them all off.
I had reached a point where I felt that I couldn’t go on living like this anymore.
A few weeks after starting my prescription for Sertraline, I finally 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 (Zoloft)?
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 (Zoloft) 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 (Zoloft), in addition to Weight Gain
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.
Sertraline (Zoloft) can occasionally lead to certain gastrointestinal issues in some individuals.
Potential side effects include feelings of nausea, instances of vomiting, bouts of diarrhoea, or issues with constipation.
These symptoms are typically mild in nature and often resolve independently without necessitating additional medical intervention.
Sertraline, like many other medications, can sometimes lead to the occurrence of headaches.
These headaches may vary in intensity and duration, ranging from mild, fleeting discomfort to more severe, persistent pain.
It’s not uncommon for these headaches to occur during the initial stages of treatment or following a dosage increase, as the body adjusts to the medication.
However, if you find yourself dealing with severe or ongoing headaches, it’s essential to take action.
Your doctor can help determine the cause of these headaches and suggest potential solutions.
This could involve adjusting your sertraline dosage, switching to a different medication, or providing recommendations for over-the-counter remedies or lifestyle changes that can help manage the headache symptoms.
Dizziness or Light-headedness
Dizziness and light-headedness are also common side effects associated with the use of Sertraline.
When experiencing these particular symptoms, it’s crucial to take certain precautions to ensure your safety.
Operating heavy machinery or driving should be avoided until you’re certain about how the medication affects you.
These activities require a high level of alertness and coordination, which can be compromised if you’re feeling dizzy or light-headed.
Additionally, consuming alcohol while on Sertraline is generally not recommended.
Alcohol can exacerbate the feelings of dizziness and light-headedness, and it can also potentially interact with your medication, making it less effective or increasing the risk of other side effects.
Incorporating lifestyle changes such as staying hydrated, avoiding sudden changes in posture, and getting up slowly from a sitting or lying position can help manage these symptoms.
However, these methods should be used as complementary strategies and do not replace professional medical advice.
Always prioritize communication with your healthcare provider to ensure the most effective, comfortable treatment plan for your unique needs
Drowsiness or Fatigue
Sertraline is also known to occasionally cause feelings of drowsiness or fatigue in some individuals.
This can impact several aspects of your daily life, such as your productivity, concentration, and overall mood.
In some cases, these side effects may even affect your ability to safely perform tasks that require alertness, like driving or operating machinery.
If you experience drowsiness or fatigue while taking sertraline, there are several strategies you could consider.
Regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, ensuring you get enough sleep, and staying well-hydrated can all contribute to reducing feelings of fatigue.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a frequently reported side effect which can cause discomfort, difficulty swallowing, and changes in taste sensation.
To alleviate the dryness, increasing your fluid intake is highly recommended.
Regular sips of water throughout the day can help keep your mouth moist.
Additionally, chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies can stimulate saliva production, further helping to combat dryness.
Avoiding tobacco products and alcohol is also crucial when experiencing this symptom.
Both substances can exacerbate dry mouth by reducing saliva production.
Furthermore, they can potentially interact with sertraline, impacting the medication’s effectiveness and increasing the risk of other side effects.
In addition to these measures, you might also consider using over-the-counter saliva substitutes or oral moisturizers.
These products can provide temporary relief from the discomfort associated with dry mouth.
Regular dental check-ups are also important, as dry mouth can increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Sexual side effects
Sertraline is known to sometimes cause sexual side effects. These side effects can manifest in various ways, including decreased sexual desire or libido, erectile dysfunction in men, and delayed ejaculation or orgasm.
Decreased libido refers to a reduced interest in sexual activity, which can affect both men and women.
Erectile dysfunction, on the other hand, is a condition where a man has difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection suitable for sexual intercourse.
Delayed ejaculation, also predominantly affecting men, involves a significant delay or inability to achieve orgasm despite adequate sexual stimulation.
These side effects can be distressing and have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life and intimate relationships.
However, it’s important to remember that these side effects are relatively common with many types of antidepressants, not just Sertraline.
If you’re experiencing these side effects, it’s crucial to discuss them with your healthcare provider.
While such conversations can feel uncomfortable, they’re necessary for finding a solution to these problems.
Your healthcare provider can suggest several strategies to manage these side effects, which may include adjusting the dosage of your medication, switching to a different antidepressant, or adding another medication to counteract the sexual side effects.
In addition to medical interventions, lifestyle changes such as regular physical exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, reducing alcohol intake, and quitting smoking can also help improve sexual function.
Sertraline (Zoloft) is known to cause weight gain in some individuals.
This side effect can occur due to a variety of reasons, including increased appetite, fluid retention, and changes in the body’s metabolism and fat storage.
One of the most common reasons behind weight gain when taking Sertraline (Zoloft) is an increase in appetite.
The medication can sometimes make you feel hungrier than usual, leading to an increased calorie intake.
Over time, consuming more calories than your body burns can result in weight gain.
Sertraline may also lead to fluid retention, or edema, which can cause a sudden or gradual increase in weight.
This is because the body holds on to excess fluid in the tissues, leading to swelling and an increase in body weight.
Although this isn’t fat gain, it can contribute to a higher number on the scale.
Changes in Metabolism and Fat Storage
Lastly, sertraline can potentially lead to changes in your body’s metabolism and the way it stores fat.
Some research suggests that certain antidepressants can slow down your metabolism, making it harder for your body to burn calories.
Additionally, these medications might alter how your body stores fat, leading to a greater accumulation of body fat and subsequent weight gain.
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 (Zoloft) led to serious weight gain
When I started taking Sertraline (Zoloft), 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 (Zoloft) 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 (Zoloft) 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 (Zoloft).
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.
Final Thoughts on Sertraline (Zoloft) and Weight Gain
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.
Frequently Asked Questions about Sertraline (Zoloft) and Weight Gain
What is Sertraline (Zoloft)?
Sertraline is a type of medication known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It’s commonly used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Can Sertraline (Zoloft) cause weight gain?
Yes, weight gain is a possible side effect of Sertraline (Zoloft), as with many SSRIs. However, the effect varies from person to person, and not everyone will experience this side effect.
Why does Sertraline (Zoloft) cause weight gain?
The exact reason isn’t clear, but it’s thought that SSRIs like Sertraline (Zoloft) may affect your metabolism and appetite, leading to increased food intake and weight gain.
How common is weight gain with Sertraline (Zoloft)?
While weight gain is listed as a potential side effect, it doesn’t affect everyone. The prevalence can vary, but it’s generally considered a less common side effect.
What should I do if I’m experiencing significant weight gain on Sertraline (Zoloft)?
If you’re experiencing significant weight gain while taking Sertraline (Zoloft), it’s important to consult your healthcare provider. They can review your medication and explore other potential causes of weight gain or suggest alternative treatment options.
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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Carla Corelli is an author, advocate, and survivor of narcissistic abuse. Having grown up with a narcissistic father, Carla experienced firsthand the profound impact of psychological and emotional abuse. Fueled by her personal journey, she pursued a degree in psychology and has dedicated herself to shedding light on the complexities of narcissistic abuse.
With over fifteen years of experience in writing and advocating for survivors, Carla is deeply committed to providing support, education, and empowerment to those who have endured similar trauma. Through her insightful articles and resources, Carla endeavors to offer a compassionate space for healing and growth, while advocating for greater awareness and understanding of narcissistic abuse.
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