Does sertraline help obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? 

In this article, we will discuss whether sertraline can help treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). We will also discuss some research studies and the mechanism through which sertraline can help OCD. We will also discuss some common side effects and ways to mitigate them.

Does sertraline help obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Yes, sertraline can be used for the management and treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for OCD. (1,2)

Sertraline is often considered the first-line drug for such patients and is usually well-tolerated. It might take some time to kick in and effectively manage these symptoms, but it eventually starts to provide relief as your body adjusts to the medication. 

However, sertraline might not be the best choice for everyone as people are different and can have different factors affecting their health. It is also important to note that sertraline is a prescription antidepressant and should never be taken without a doctor’s approval. 

If you think you have obsessive behaviour or intrusive thoughts, please reach out to your doctor. Sertraline is a good option for OCD and a lot of people have successfully used this antidepressant for OCD-related symptoms. 

What does research suggest?

Several research studies have discussed the beneficial effects of sertraline for the management and treatment of OCD. One research study indicated that 12 weeks of sertraline use can effectively manage OCD symptoms and is generally well-tolerated. (3)

The study did discuss some side effects experienced by the participants, but it was well-tolerated for most individuals. 

Another research study included 649 participants, out of which 232 people completed a 526-week study with sertraline on OCD (4). The study concluded that sertraline was well-tolerated by the majority of the participants, with a few exceptions who could not complete the entire course of the study (4). 

Sertraline was found to be quite efficacious compared to placebo in preventing OCD relapse and worsening of OCD symptoms (4). 

Another research study monitored the long-term effects of sertraline in OCD patients for almost 2 years (5). The study concluded that sertraline can be a safe and effective option for the long-term management and treatment of OCD. These studies indicate that sertraline could be an effective treatment strategy for OCD.

How does sertraline manage OCD?

Sertraline manages OCD by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin. It does so by blocking serotonin transporters (SERT), which increases the overall availability of serotonin to bind to its receptive receptors (2). This serotonergic activity is essential for the management of OCD. 

Research indicates that OCD is triggered when there is a disruption in your brain signalling (6). Serotonin, an excitatory neurotransmitter, plays a huge role in communication between neurons, and its deficiency can trigger symptoms associated with OCD. 

This is how sertraline can help manage OCD, as it increases the availability of serotonin, normalising brain signalling.

What are the dosage recommendations of sertraline for OCD?

The dosage recommendations of sertraline for OCD are: (1,2)

Age groupsSertraline doses
Adults The initial dose is 50mg once daily. The dose can be increased up to 200mg/day.
Teenagers The initial dose is 50mg once daily. The dose can be increased up to 200mg/day. 
Children over 6 years of ageThe initial dose is 25mg once daily. It should not exceed 200mg/day 
Children under 6 years of ageNot recommended

What are the side effects of sertraline when used for OCD?

Sertraline is associated with the following side effects when used for OCD: (1,2)

  • Headache 
  • Weight changes
  • Insomnia 
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Tremors 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Vomiting 
  • Dizziness 
  • Constipation 
  • Nausea 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Heartburn 
  • Nervousness 
  • Sexual side effects in both men and women

Sertraline is also associated with some serious and rare side effects, which might require immediate medical attention. So, make sure you keep a close eye on your side effects and report them to your doctor promptly.

What to do if sertraline helps to manage OCD?

If sertraline is not managing OCD effectively, please talk to your healthcare provider. It’s important to note that sertraline can take time to work, and it does not help your condition overnight. 

Sertraline can take 4-6 weeks to show noticeable therapeutic benefits, so if you’re a new sertraline user, you might not see results right away. This antidepressant takes time to balance your serotonin levels, and your body can take time to adapt to this change. 

So if you’re new, make sure you give sertraline some time to work. If you’re experiencing side effects, your doctor may adjust your dose to help mitigate them. 

However, sertraline may not work for everyone, and people might have other underlying health conditions affecting their health that may affect the efficacy of sertraline in managing OCD. So, make sure you keep discussing your symptoms with your doctor and follow the directions properly. 

If sertraline is not the right choice of medication for you, your doctor might consider alternative treatment strategies. Just make sure you do not make any changes to your prescription on your own.


  1. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. ZOLOFT (sertraline hydrochloride) tablets, for oral use. Available from:
  1. Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline. 2023 Feb 13. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 31613469. Available from:
  1. Chouinard G. Sertraline in the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder: two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1992 Oct;7 Suppl 2:37-41. doi: 10.1097/00004850-199210002-00007. PMID: 1484177. 
  1. Koran LM, Hackett E, Rubin A, Wolkow R, Robinson D. Efficacy of sertraline in the long-term treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Jan;159(1):88-95. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.159.1.88. PMID: 11772695. 
  1. Rasmussen S, Hackett E, DuBoff E, Greist J, Halaris A, Koran LM, Liebowitz M, Lydiard RB, McElroy S, Mendels J, O’Connor K. A 2-year study of sertraline in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1997 Nov;12(6):309-16. doi: 10.1097/00004850-199711000-00003. PMID: 9547132. 
  1. Baumgarten HG, Grozdanovic Z. Role of serotonin in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Br J Psychiatry Suppl. 1998;(35):13-20. PMID: 9829022. 

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!