Does sertraline affect learning? (3+ factors involved)
In this article, we will discuss whether sertraline affects learning. We will also discuss some research studies, learning-related side effects of sertraline, and some additional factors that can affect your cognition.
Does sertraline affect learning?
Sertraline does not necessarily affect learning, but it may cause some side effects that can make learning a bit difficult for you.
Sertraline is one of the most commonly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, primarily used to manage depression, anxiety, and various other mental health conditions (1,2). Sertraline does not directly impact learning or make you more or less intellectual than you already are.
However, it can cause some side effects and affect memory in some cases, making the process of learning difficult or undesirable. The age of the person taking sertraline also matters as young individuals may not experience memory-related side effects that often.
However, people are different and can respond differently to medications. If you think that sertraline is affecting your cognition or you’re finding learning things difficult, please reach out to your healthcare provider.
What does research suggest?
There is limited research on the effects of sertraline on learning, and studies do not show many learning-related issues associated with this antidepressant. However, some research studies have indicated that long-term use of sertraline can affect memory and cognition in some cases (3).
Side effects like forgetfulness have been reported in clinical studies, and this affects learning the most. Research also indicates that sertraline might affect cognition and memory in children and adolescents (4). However, the antidepressant also showed a positive response in some patients.
Depression itself is known to affect learning in one way or another. It might not directly impact your cognition or basic psychological processing, but it can affect your motivation and mental energy to learn.
In such cases, sertraline can help, as this medication increases the serotonergic activity in the brain (1). Serotonin is an excitatory monoamine neurotransmitter that is primarily involved in the pathophysiology of depression.
This activity of sertraline can improve your memory and learning with time if it is negatively affected by depression or any other condition for which you are taking sertraline.
What sertraline-induced side effects can affect learning?
The following sertraline-induced side effects can affect learning: (5)
While not overly common, some users may experience memory issues, particularly long-term users. Short-term memory effects are generally minimal. Memory-related issues can affect cognition in the long run.
Low energy levels and lack of motivation
Antidepressants, including sertraline, can influence energy levels and motivation. Although not a direct impact on cognition, reduced enthusiasm may slow the learning process.
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Side effects like dizziness can disrupt concentration. Learning becomes challenging when dealing with sensations like a spinning head, as it affects your ability to focus.
Insomnia can negatively influence cognition. Initially, it causes lethargy, as inadequate sleep can affect your energy levels the next day. Persistent insomnia can lead to more severe cognitive issues with time. Research suggests a connection between chronic insomnia and early dementia.
What other factors can affect learning while taking sertraline?
Some other factors should also be considered that can affect learning while taking sertraline:
|Impact on Learning
|Dosage of Sertraline
|Higher doses may contribute to cognitive side effects, affecting learning.
|Children and elderly individuals may experience different cognitive effects.
|Underlying Health Condition
|Coexisting medical conditions may interact with sertraline, impacting learning.
|Duration of Sertraline Use
|Long-term use may have different cognitive effects compared to short-term use.
|People react differently; some may experience cognitive effects, others may not.
|Interactions with Other Medications
|Concurrent use of certain drugs may influence cognitive function.
What to do if sertraline affects learning?
If you think sertraline is affecting your cognition or your ability to learn, please reach out to your doctor. Your provider will determine the exact reason why you can’t concentrate or learn the way you used to. As discussed earlier, depression is itself linked to such symptoms.
Depressed individuals tend to stay inactive or unproductive, as their condition makes them question everything, even their self-worth. This is why depression can affect your learning or your motivation to learn anything.
So, if you’re new to sertraline, it can mean that your medication may have not started working yet, and your depression symptoms are still affecting you. This is because antidepressants do not work right away. Sertraline can take up to 4-6 weeks to kick in and make positive changes in your brain.
It can take even longer in some cases, so make sure that you give sertraline enough time to work. If your dose needs to be adjusted to enhance the therapeutic effects of the drug, your doctor will consider it.
However, sertraline might not work well for everyone. If this medication continues to affect your cognition for some reason, your doctor will consider alternative treatment options. Just make sure you do not make any changes to your treatment plan on your own.
Promoting better learning while taking sertraline
In my experience as a pharmacist, I have seen people struggling with memory issues while being treated with sertraline. However, most of these people are either chronic sertraline users or elderly. Young individuals may not experience memory-related issues.
However, sertraline can affect learning in other ways in this age group and also comes with a black box warning indicating suicidal behaviour in individuals younger than 24 years of age. The best way to ensure the safe use of sertraline is to keep following your doctor’s directions.
You should also opt for healthy activities, like exercising, reading, writing, brainstorming, and playing games to enhance your memory and cognition, such as Scrabble, puzzles, etc. This keeps your brain working and helps you focus on things.
- Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline. 2023 Feb 13. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 31613469. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547689
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. ZOLOFT (sertraline hydrochloride) tablets, for oral use. Available from: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/019839s74s86s87_20990s35s44s45lbl.pdf
- 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. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25462418/
- Günther T, Holtkamp K, Jolles J, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Konrad K. The influence of sertraline on attention and verbal memory in children and adolescents with anxiety disorders. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2005 Aug;15(4):608-18. doi: 10.1089/cap.2005.15.608. PMID: 16190792. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16190792/
- National Library of Medicine. Sertraline: MedlinePlus Drug Information [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. National Library of Medicine. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a697048.html#side-effects