Does Sertraline make you dumb? (3 negative impacts on cognition)

In this article, we will discuss the negative effects of Sertraline on cognition and whether the medication can make you dumb or affect your intelligence. We will also discuss some side effects that can have a negative impact on your cognition.

Does Sertraline make you dumb?

Sertraline does not necessarily make you ‘dumb’, but it can affect your intelligence. 

Several cases have been reported in which people did not show the level of intelligence and memory they had before starting their treatment with Sertraline or any other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). 

Although antidepressants can help people with various mental health conditions – they can sometimes leave some strings attached (1). This is why you need to properly monitor your side effects and report them to your doctor. 

If Sertraline is affecting your performance at your school or workplace, you should talk to your doctor about the safety of Sertraline for future use. 

What does research suggest?

Several research studies have discussed the side effects of Sertraline that can affect cognition. 

A research review indicated that SSRIs, including Sertraline, can cause memory problems – which can affect performance at school and work and can affect cognition in people irrespective of their age (2). 

One research study indicated that patients taking SSRIs experienced significant memory loss over 8 weeks of treatment, in young people as well as the elderly (3).  

Another research study indicated that more than 20% of patients with depression or anxiety disorders experienced memory loss after taking SSRI medications for 6 months (4). 

This memory loss was identified as a side effect of the medication rather than a symptom of their underlying depression or anxiety (4).

How can Sertraline make you dumb?

Sertraline can make you dumb or affect your cognition by causing side effects, like:

Forgetfulness/memory loss

Sertraline can cause forgetfulness or memory loss when used for an extended period (2). This can impact cognition differently in individuals. Students taking Sertraline may experience forgetfulness in learning their lessons or face difficulty in achieving high grades as a result. 

Similarly, individuals in the workforce may forget their tasks or responsibilities.


Sertraline can cause depersonalization, which can also affect cognition indirectly (5). People may lose interest in various things, particularly in their personal growth and career development. 

They may not feel motivated to work hard or learn something that could enhance their professional growth. This occurs when individuals do not feel connected to themselves and lack interest in self-improvement.

Fatigue and dizziness

Some common side effects of Sertraline like fatigue and dizziness can also impact your productivity, learning, and overall performance. These side effects don’t directly make you less intelligent or ‘dumb’, but they can hinder your professional growth. 

For example, students may struggle to focus or concentrate on their studies when experiencing overwhelming fatigue. Similarly, if individuals feel lightheaded or exhausted, it can affect their productivity at work.

What to do if Sertraline is affecting your cognition?

If Sertraline affects your cognition, either directly or indirectly, you should discuss it with your doctor. Sertraline is a good antidepressant, but it might not be the best choice for everyone. 

You should discuss your concerns with your provider who will determine the best course of action to restore your cognitive abilities and prevent them from deteriorating. However, make sure you don’t make any changes to your prescription without consulting your doctor first.


In this article, we have discussed how Sertraline can affect your cognition and what side effects can contribute to it. We have also discussed some research studies and talked about how you should always report your side effects to your provider. 


  1. National Library of Medicine. Sertraline: MedlinePlus Drug Information [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. National Library of Medicine. Available from: 
  1. Sayyah M, Eslami K, AlaiShehni S, Kouti L. Cognitive Function before and during Treatment with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in Patients with Depression or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Psychiatry J. 2016;2016:5480391. doi: 10.1155/2016/5480391. Epub 2016 Aug 15. PMID: 27597949; PMCID: PMC5002481. 
  1. Culang-Reinlieb ME, Sneed JR, Keilp JG, Roose SP. Change in cognitive functioning in depressed older adults following treatment with sertraline or nortriptyline. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2012 Aug;27(8):777-84. doi: 10.1002/gps.2783. Epub 2011 Sep 15. PMID: 21919060; PMCID: PMC3391314. 
  1. Popovic D, Vieta E, Fornaro M, Perugi G. Cognitive tolerability following successful long-term treatment of major depression and anxiety disorders with SSRI antidepressants. J Affect Disord. 2015 Mar 1;173:211-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.11.008. Epub 2014 Nov 15. PMID: 25462418. 
  1. Vilela M, Fernandes D, Salazar T Sr, Maio C, Duarte A. When Alice Took Sertraline: A Case of Sertraline-Induced Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. Cureus. 2020 Aug 30;12(8):e10140. doi: 10.7759/cureus.10140. PMID: 33005552; PMCID: PMC7524018. 

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