Does Sertraline make you unable to cry? (+3 insights)

In this short article, we will discuss the Sertraline-induced inability to cry and the potential mechanisms through which it occurs. We will also discuss the management strategies.

Does Sertraline make you unable to cry?

Yes, Sertraline can make you unable to cry.  Sertraline causes emotional blunting which manifests in the dulling of feelings which makes some people unable to cry (1). This feeling occurs in about half of those who take the drug (2). However, the side effect improves after a few weeks of taking the medication.

Sertraline is a widely used antidepressant that is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It acts by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin in the brain synapses which leads to accumulation of the neurotransmitter (3). Serotonin plays a role in the regulation of mood and personality and is beneficial in the treatment of depressive disorders (3).

Sertraline and other SSRIs like fluoxetine cause emotional numbness and sadness in 40 to 60% of those taking the drug (2). Emotional blunting is a condition whereby a person’s emotions and feelings are dulled.

People with emotional blunting often cannot cry, even during sad or distressing situations that would have normally initiated a crying episode (1). This may last for several weeks before the drug starts to be effective.

The Sertraline-induced inability to cry usually starts at the initiation of therapy and may last for weeks (1,2). Please do not stop the drug when you feel this side effect. Contact your healthcare provider if you feel that the side effect is becoming bothersome.

How does Sertraline make you unable to cry?

The mechanism through which Sertraline reduces the ability to cry in some patients is thought to be due to delayed onset of action of SSRIs through a mechanism that is not well understood (4).

The administration of SSRIs has been reported to trigger dual serotonin signals with different effects attributed to the release of glutamine and serotonin neurotransmitters at different time points (4). The delayed onset of action is thought to be due to a reduction of the glutamine component of the dual serotonin signal.

Some researchers have also suggested that it could be due to the overmodulation of serotonin pathways by Sertraline (1). Others have hypothesized that Sertraline and other SSRIs may reduce the functional ability of the brain areas that are involved in emotional processing (5).

What does research suggest?

Researchers have reported that 40 to 60% of the persons taking Sertraline will experience a reduced ability to cry when they start taking Sertraline (2). This may last several weeks before the drug starts working (1,2).

It is therefore important that you are aware of this side effect which ordinarily goes away when the drug begins to take effect. You should therefore not stop taking the drug unless the side effects become too bothersome.

Please contact your doctor or pharmacist when you feel that the side effect is getting worrisome.

What factors contribute to the inability to cry while taking Sertraline?

Several factors can contribute to the inability to cry while taking sertraline including the patient’s characteristics, drug interactions and lifestyle (2,6).

Patient characteristics include genetic predisposition and overall health status. About half of the population may not tolerate Sertraline owing to their genetic makeup and are thus likely to experience the effect upon taking the drug (2).

The overall health of a person taking the medication may also contribute. The presence of ailments such as liver or kidney disease may affect the metabolism of Sertraline thereby increasing the risk of having the side effect (6).

Additionally, the interactions between Sertraline and other drugs may lead to increased levels of Sertraline with the potential for toxicity and risk of experiencing the effect (6).

How can the inability to cry while taking Sertraline be managed?

Your inability to cry while taking Sertraline may be reduced, or avoided through several measures including lifestyle changes, such as reduction of alcohol intake and smoking.

If you feel that the drug is becoming too bothersome for you, then you can contact your doctor who will assess your condition and may reduce the dose or prescribe an alternative drug.

Understanding the Sertraline-induced inability to cry

Your inability to cry does not mean that Sertraline is not working. About half of those taking Sertraline will experience the side effect which normally takes a few weeks before it goes away.

I urge you to continue taking the drug during this latent time unless you feel that it is becoming too bothersome. You may contact your doctor who will assess you and decide on the next course of action.

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Holguín-Lew JC, Bell V. “When I Want to Cry I Can’t”: Inability to Cry Following SSRI Treatment. Rev Colomb Psiquiatr. 2013 Dec;42(4):304-10. doi: 10.1016/S0034-7450(13)70026-X. Epub 2013 Dec 31. PMID: 26573114. Available from:


Goodwin GM, Price J, De Bodinat C, Laredo J. Emotional blunting with antidepressant treatments: A survey among depressed patients. J Affect Disord. 2017 Oct 15;221:31-35. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.05.048. Epub 2017 Jun 6. PMID: 28628765. Available from:


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