Does Sertraline cause mood swings? (1+ phases of concern)

This article answers the question, “Can Sertraline cause mood swings?”. To address this query comprehensively, we’ll explore the impact of Sertraline on mood throughout its use, including initial side effects, mood improvement, and the potential for mood changes during withdrawal.

Does Sertraline cause mood swings?

Yes, Sertraline can cause mood swings in some people, however, the incidence is low.

Sertraline is an antidepressant medication used to treat mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

While it’s intended to help stabilise mood over time, it’s possible to experience some fluctuations in mood when starting or discontinuing the medication.

What does research suggest?

Sertraline, an antidepressant medication, has shown promise in alleviating a range of mood disorders, including major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. (1)

Extensive studies have demonstrated the efficacy of sertraline in addressing mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and irritability. (2)

The mechanism of sertraline involves elevating serotonin levels in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with improved mood, better sleep, enhanced appetite control, and increased energy levels. (1)

One study suggests that Sertraline is effective in improving mood and reducing irritability and anger expression after a few weeks of treatment. (3)

Some people may experience increased anxiety and mood swings during the initial weeks of treatment before experiencing any improvement. (4)

Another study indicates that by stopping sertraline abruptly, people may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, headaches, mood changes, and anxiety. (5)

When is it most likely to experience Sertraline-induced mood swings?

Sertraline-induced mood swings are most likely to occur during the start and at the end of therapy. It is important to note that not everyone using Sertraline will experience mood swings or other potential side effects.

Initiation of Sertraline treatment

This period is often called the “initiation phase” and typically lasts for the first few weeks of treatment, especially if your dose is too high.

During the initial phase, some people may experience mood swings, heightened anxiety, or other changes in mood as their body adjusts to increased serotonin levels.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that boosts mood, regulates anxiety and improves sleep. Sertraline works by increasing serotonin levels. As therapy progresses and the body becomes accustomed to Sertraline, these mood changes tend to subside.

After 4-6 weeks of consistent use, individuals start experiencing the full therapeutic benefits of Sertraline, including improved mood, sleep, and overall well-being.

Discontinuation of Sertraline treatment

While mood changes are more likely to occur at the beginning of therapy, they can also be experienced when discontinuing Sertraline abruptly. This phase is known as the “tapering-off” or “discontinuation phase.”

It is strongly advised to gradually taper off the dose of Sertraline to minimize potential side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms of Sertraline may include mood swings, dizziness, electric shock sensations (commonly known as “brain zaps”), sleep disturbances, and visual disturbances.

What to do if Sertraline causes mood swings?

If Sertraline is affecting your mood in a way that is concerning or uncomfortable, it’s essential to take the following steps:

  • Contact your healthcare provider: The first and most crucial step is to reach out to the healthcare provider who prescribed you Sertraline. Describe the specific mood changes you are experiencing and how they affect your daily life. Your healthcare provider can assess your situation and recommend appropriate actions.
  • Follow medical guidance: Based on your discussion with your healthcare provider, they may suggest various options. This could include adjusting the dosage of Sertraline, trying a different medication, or exploring additional forms of therapy or treatment.
  • Don’t discontinue abruptly: If your healthcare provider decides to make changes to your medication, it’s essential to taper off Sertraline gradually. Abruptly stopping Sertraline can lead to withdrawal symptoms and may worsen your mood.
  • Monitor your mood: Keep a journal to track your mood changes and any side effects you may be experiencing. This information can be valuable in discussions with your healthcare provider and in evaluating the effectiveness of any treatment adjustments.
  • Seek support: If mood changes are affecting your well-being, consider seeking support from a therapist or counsellor. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), can complement medication in managing mood disorders.
  • Engage in self-care: Incorporate self-care practices into your daily routine. This can include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress through relaxation techniques or mindfulness exercises.


Sertraline can lead to mood swings, notably during the initial phase and when discontinuing the medication. Despite this, it is generally considered safe and effective for improving mood.

If you are experiencing Sertraline-induced mood swings impacting your daily life, it’s essential to reach out to your healthcare provider.

Open communication with your doctor is crucial in addressing these effects and finding the right approach to manage your mood effectively.

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