Does sertraline stifle creativity? (5 side effects leading to it)
In this article, we will discuss whether sertraline can stifle creativity. We will discuss some research studies and how depression itself can stifle your creativity. We will also talk about some sertraline-induced side effects that can affect your creativity and ways to manage them.
Does sertraline stifle creativity?
Sertraline does not necessarily stifle creativity or make you any more or less creative than you already are. Sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor primarily used as an antidepressant (1,2).
It does not directly impact your creative thinking but can influence emotional processing, which may be linked to creativity in some cases.
This antidepressant is not generally known to affect the brain regions associated with creativity and, in fact, can help some individuals be more creative by managing symptoms that may hinder it.
However, there is no direct link established between sertraline and creativity. If you feel your creativity has changed since taking sertraline, it’s important to reach out to your doctor.
What does research suggest?
There is limited research on the effects of sertraline directly on creativity, and no research study has explained whether sertraline can impact the prefrontal cortex – the part of your brain associated with creative thinking.
However, some research studies have suggested that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may affect your motivation to achieve a goal, potentially affecting creative thinking (3). It may not be a direct effect, but it can impact individuals differently.
Some studies have also suggested that sertraline may affect cognition, influencing the ability to focus and perform well (4). However, cognitive impairment with sertraline is not widely reported, and other factors may contribute to this side effect for certain individuals.
Additionally, research studies on sertraline’s effects on adolescents and children have hinted at potential impacts on focus and memory, potentially influencing their usual task performance or creative thinking (5).
It’s important to note that these studies establish an indirect link, and there is no clinical study that has proven this side effect.
What is the connection between depression and reduced creativity?
Depression can affect your creativity without actually making you any more or less creative than you are. The symptoms associated with depression can hinder creative thinking by making you hopeless and sad.
Such individuals begin to feel worthless and start second-guessing their own skills and the role they have to play in this world. This can significantly affect motivation, and people may begin to give up on their skills, their dreams, and their goals in life.
This can affect your creativity, not because you can’t do it, but because your depression doesn’t let you do it. It deprives you of the physical and mental energy required to put effort into your growth.
People may begin suicide ideation, and one can’t do creative thinking when thinking of killing themselves. This is what depression does to you; it does not affect your skills; it affects your motivation and mental energy to use them or to polish them.
Depression should never be left untreated and should be properly managed with medications (if needed) and mental therapies.
What sertraline-induced side effects can stifle creativity?
Some sertraline-induced side effects can indirectly impact your creativity. These include: (6)
Lack of focus
If sertraline affects your focus, you may not feel as creative. You might struggle to come up with ideas for your new project, especially if you’re an artist. This doesn’t mean sertraline directly affects your creativity; it means your lack of focus is making the task at hand difficult for you.
Some people may experience periods of zoning out, even in the middle of a task, and may not be able to complete it properly. Zoning out refers to a state where your mind loses concentration, making it challenging to stay engaged in creative activities.
This side effect can also impact your creativity, not directly, but because of a lack of energy to do anything creative or to give it enough time or thought. People might want to stay in bed all day long and not put in any effort.
This side effect can also affect your work if you’re an artist or your creativity, not by directly altering it, but by making you so exhausted due to a lack of sleep that it becomes difficult for you to work. Sleep disturbances are common with sertraline and can affect your mood and energy levels.
If you’re dizzy, you can’t be creative or focus on the tasks at hand. Dizziness or lightheadedness can sometimes affect individuals severely, making it challenging to concentrate on creative activities and potentially impacting the entire day.
What to do if sertraline affects your creativity?
If you think that sertraline is affecting your creativity or your cognitive activities, please reach out to your healthcare provider. Although sertraline does not affect these activities that much, people are different and can respond differently to medications.
If sertraline is affecting you in any way, your doctor will adjust your treatment plan accordingly. There are plenty of other antidepressants that can replace sertraline if it’s not the right choice for you.
As a pharmacist, I have seen people try different antidepressants until they find the one that works best for them. So, it’s normal to not be happy with your current antidepressant. Your doctor will consider alternative treatment options to manage your condition in a better way.
However, it is important to make sure that you do not make any changes to your prescription on your own.
- 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
- Flaherty AW. Brain illness and creativity: mechanisms and treatment risks. Can J Psychiatry. 2011 Mar;56(3):132-43. doi: 10.1177/070674371105600303. PMID: 21443820. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21443820/
- Siepmann M, Grossmann J, Mück-Weymann M, Kirch W. Effects of sertraline on autonomic and cognitive functions in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2003 Jul;168(3):293-8. doi: 10.1007/s00213-003-1448-4. Epub 2003 Apr 12. PMID: 12692706. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12692706/
- 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