Sertraline, sold under the brand name Zoloft®, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that’s commonly prescribed to treat depression. It’s also used as a treatment for certain forms of anxiety, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and several other conditions.
If you’ve been prescribed a SSRI such as Zoloft, there’s a possibility that you could experience sexual side effects after you start using your medication. In fact, research shows that between 25 percent and 73 percent of people prescribed SSRIs experience sexual side effects.
Dealing with erectile dysfunction and other sexual side effects from Zoloft can be a frustrating process. Luckily, almost all sexual side effects caused by Zoloft and other SSRIs are treatable, with a variety of options available for reducing and managing your symptoms.
Below, we’ve explained how medications such as Zoloft can cause sexual side effects like ED, as well as what you can do to manage SSRI-related erectile dysfunction and other sexual side effects.
Researchers aren’t aware of exactly why Zoloft and other SSRIs can cause erectile dysfunction and other sexual side effects. Currently, theories point towards the effects of SSRIs on serotonin — an important neurotransmitter — as potentially affecting sexual desire and performance.
Serotonin is an essential neurotransmitter — a type of chemical messenger that the body uses to communicate between nerve cells. Zoloft and other SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels — an important action for treating depression and related conditions.
Experts believe that by increasing the availability of serotonin, Zoloft and other SSRIs can affect other hormones, including the hormones dopamine and testosterone.
Dopamine and testosterone both play key roles in sexual desire and performance. Testosterone is closely associated with sexual arousal, while dopamine plays an important role in orgasm and ejaculation.
Put simply, SSRIs may cause erectile dysfunction and other sexual side effects by affecting the specific hormones and neurotransmitters that make you feel aroused and allow you to perform sexually.
Interestingly, sertraline’s effects on orgasm and ejaculation are well known — so much so that it is often prescribed off-label as a medication for treating premature ejaculation.
If you notice sexual side effects after you start taking Zoloft, it’s important that you don’t reduce your dosage or stop taking your medication without first talking to your healthcare provider.
Stopping Zoloft suddenly or reducing your dosage without warning could cause you to develop antidepressant withdrawal symptoms. These can develop within a few days and can range from physical issues like dizziness and flu-like symptoms to anxiety.
It’s also possible for you to experience a relapse of depression if you suddenly stop taking your antidepressants.
Before making any changes, talk to your healthcare provider. To treat erectile dysfunction and other sexual side effects, they may recommend that you:
Just like other SSRIs, Zoloft (sertraline) can and often does cause sexual side effects, including erectile dysfunction. Research shows that between 25 percent and 73 percent of people who use SSRIs experience sexual side effects, making these issues fairly common.
If you’re prescribed Zoloft or another SSRI and find it difficult to get and maintain an erection or reach orgasm, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options.
Depending on the severity of your depression, your specific side effects and other factors, they may recommend adjusting your dosage, changing to a different type of antidepressant, using a medication such as Viagra or taking other steps to improve your sexual performance.
Whatever you do, it’s important that you don’t suddenly stop taking Zoloft. Doing this may cause your depression to worsen and increase your risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Sertraline, the active ingredient in Zoloft, is a common SSRI that’s used to treat depression and several other conditions. Our Sertraline 101 guide goes into greater detail about how sertraline works, its uses, side effects and more.