Is zoloft good for social anxiety?

What is Zoloft

Zoloft, the trade name for sertraline hydrochloride, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor used in the treatment of different mental disorders such as:

  • obsessive compulsive disorder

  • major depression

  • social anxiety disorder

  • panic attack

  • severe premenstrual syndrome

  • post-traumatic stress disorder

Zoloft is manufactured by Pfizer and was the most prescribed antidepressant on the US market in 2013.

How does Zoloft work

Zoloft restores the chemical balance of the brain by increasing the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in sending the electrical messages from one neuron to another. Zoloft keeps the amount of serotonin at the right level so that the user is in a good mood, feels less anxiety, and sleeps better.

Zoloft dosage for social anxiety

The typical dose starts with 25 mg per day, increases to 50 mg after week 1, and can reach 200 mg for patients who do not feel a significant improvement with the lower dosage. Zoloft is available in tablets of 25/50/100 mg and oral solution.

Zoloft side effects

Like any other medication, Zoloft carries the risk of dealing with side effects. Most of them are temporary and should go away within 2-3 weeks.

Common side effects:

  • nausea

  • dry mouth

  • insomnia

  • decreased sexual desire or sexual performance

  • diarrhea (the rate of incidence is higher than for other SSRIs)

  • stomach pains

  • dizziness

  • headaches

  • muscle pains

  • weight changes (unusual loss)

  • weakness

  • feeling drowsy

  • excessive nasal mucus

It is advisable to see your doctor on a regular basis during the first weeks of treatment to check your reaction to Zoloft. There are some warning signs that require immediate medical help:

  • suicidal thoughts

  • behavioral changes

  • increased irritability

  • aggressiveness

  • deep depression

  • changes in the color of urine or stools

  • the skin (or eyes) turns yellow

Associated risks

Overdose symptoms:

  • agitation

  • vomiting

  • somnolence

  • tremor

  • tachycardia (fast heart rate)

Zoloft overdose is a fatal condition rarely.

The risk to develop the serotonin syndrome (too much serotonin accumulated in the brain) increases when Zoloft is taken in combination with other medications.

Serotonin syndrome:

  • excessive sweating

  • confusion

  • hallucinations

  • muscle stiffness

  • overactive reflexes

  • high blood pressure

  • irritability

  • shivering

  • muscle spasms

  • irregular heartbeat

  • coma

Precautions when taking Zoloft

The use of Zoloft requires precaution for people who:

  • took MAO inhibitors in the last 14 days

  • are suffering from diabetes or liver, kidney, and heart diseases

  • are on ECT (electroconvulsive therapy)

  • are under 18 years (the risk of suicidal behavior is higher in children taking Zoloft)

Zoloft is not recommended if you are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant, or while breastfeeding.

Zoloft interacts with:

  • blood thinners (warfarin)

  • seizure medications

  • painkillers (tramadol)

  • medicines for controlling heartbeat

  • aspirin

  • tryptophan

  • St. John’s wort

  • alcohol

Evidence about Zoloft and social anxiety

A lot of social anxiety sufferers respond well to Zoloft. It was noticed that patients reported fewer side effects and reduction in their anxiety level after taking 50 mg of Zoloft for 5 days and then increasing the daily dose to 100 mg.

The efficacy of sertraline (Zoloft) for treating social phobia was studied during a 12 week trial conducted by an international team of doctors in medicine that took place in 21 one centers from Australia, Sweden, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. The results were published in September 2004 in the Journal of Psychiatry.

370 people of 18 years or older, diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, took part in this study. They were randomly assigned to receive placebo or flexible doses of Zoloft that ranged from 50 mg to 150 mg per day.

  • adverse events were recorded in 8% of patients who were on Zoloft and 10% of patients on placebo

  • patients who took Zoloft showed greater improvement starting from week 4

  • the rate of response was 63% for sertraline and 37% for placebo

  • people on sertraline achieved better scores for anxiety and depression rated scales and reported that their quality of life was much higher than before



Zoloft is a medication approved by FDA for the treatment of social anxiety disorder (SAD) since 2003. Many SAD patients claim that Zoloft helped them to have control over their anxiety, restore interest in the daily activity, and improve their social life. Although it is one of the most prescribed antidepressants, this medication still carries a lot of risks including suicidal thoughts. It is important to follow the dose set by the doctor and report any suspicious side effects immediately.