Does sertraline stop overthinking? (5+ reasons why it might not)

In this article, we will discuss whether sertraline can help you stop overthinking. We will also discuss some relevant research studies, the overall relationship between depression and overthinking, and what role can sertraline play in helping you relax.  

Does sertraline stop overthinking?

Sertraline may stop overthinking associated with depression or anxiety. 

Sertraline is primarily used as an antidepressant and is also considered one of the first-line medications for anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). (1,2)

It does not directly address overthinking and is not prescribed solely for individuals experiencing overthinking without other signs of depression and anxiety. 

However, sertraline can be beneficial for those who are clinically depressed, as overthinking is often a prominent symptom of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. As an antidepressant, sertraline works to address the root cause of overthinking, contributing to an improvement in overall mental health.

What does research suggest?

There is limited research on the effects of sertraline specifically on overthinking. However, sertraline is known to improve various depression-related symptoms, including sadness, hopelessness, low self-esteem, and overthinking (3). 

Research has also indicated that sertraline is also a good choice of antidepressant for the management and treatment of anxiety disorders which are also associated with overthinking. 

Furthermore, research also suggests that sertraline is quite effective for the management of obsessive-compulsive disorder, a condition well known for intrusive thoughts and general overthinking (4). All of these mental health conditions are linked to overthinking and can affect the overall quality of life. 

Sertraline can actively manage these conditions, along with some other conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) (5,6). These conditions may also affect your thought processes and can be managed by sertraline. 

However, sertraline is not prescribed solely for overthinking. Some people may overthink everything now because of an underlying mental health condition or an affective mood disorder, but because of how their brain works and their overall personality. 

Some people are built that way and it’s in their innate nature to overthink everything. Sertraline is not advised for such cases and is usually recommended when an underlying condition affects the way your brain reacts to different things. 

How does sertraline help with overthinking?

Sertraline helps with overthinking by managing the serotonin levels in your brain. Sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor which inhibits the reuptake of serotonin from the synaptic cleft by blocking serotonin transporters (SERT). (1)

This increases the availability of serotonin to bind to its respective receptors and improves the overall serotonergic activity in the brain (1). This helps manage conditions like depression, anxiety, OCD, etc which are often linked to serotonin malfunctioning. 

It is important to note that sertraline does not start to work right away. It takes somewhere between 4-6 weeks to kick in and improve your symptoms, and some people may take even longer to adjust to the medication. 

It is also worth mentioning that the early course of treatment with sertraline might not be comfortable, as this antidepressant is associated with some side effects which do start to get better as your body adjusts to it. So, it is important to remain patient when taking sertraline.

What is the link between depression and overthinking?

Depression is closely related to overthinking. It’s normal for people to second-guess everything and be extra worried about things when they are depressed or anxious. These affective disorders make individuals vulnerable to mood changes and lead them to overthink almost everything. 

People with social anxiety, for instance, tend to plan their entire social experience before leaving their homes. They constantly think about how they might embarrass themselves and often avoid social gatherings altogether. 

Depression also has isolating effects, causing individuals to believe that they are worthless and deserve to be alone. Overthinking, self-hatred, and hopelessness are common symptoms of depression. It’s the way your brain plays tricks on you when it doesn’t have enough excitatory chemicals to work with.

What to do if sertraline does not help you stop overthinking?

If sertraline is not helping you with overthinking or related symptoms associated with depression, please talk to your doctor. As stated earlier, sertraline does not solely treat overthinking. 

It might not be surprising for someone to continue struggling with overthinking if they do not have any other signs of depression, anxiety, or related mental health conditions. 

If overthinking is a part of your personality, sertraline might not be sufficient, and behavioural therapies or counselling may provide better results. However, if you are clinically depressed or anxious, and that’s what triggered your overthinking in the first place, sertraline should help you. 

If it’s not, it could be due to the following reasons:

  • Your dose is too low.
  • It’s an early phase in your treatment.
  • You’re not taking it properly or skipping your doses.
  • Your condition is worsening and may require treatment adjustment.
  • You have external factors that are hindering your progress.
  • You need to pair your sertraline with proper behavioural therapy and counselling.

These factors can affect your progress and can easily be resolved. If your dose is too low, your doctor will safely escalate it to help enhance your therapeutic effects. You can also make the necessary adjustments to your overall lifestyle to help promote your mental health recovery. 

It is important to note that sertraline cannot work overnight, and it needs some time to kick in. So make sure you remain patient and give sertraline enough time to work and your body to adjust to it. 

However, sertraline may not work for everyone. If your current antidepressant is not the best choice for you, your doctor will safely switch you to another alternative. Just make sure you do not make any changes to your treatment plan on your own.

As a pharmacist, I have come across many patients who initially struggled with antidepressants and it was hard for them to find the antidepressant that works best for them. 

Choosing the right antidepressant for your symptoms and your body physiology can be a trial-and-error process, but if you work closely with your provider and properly follow the directions, you will surely find the best possible treatment plan for you. 

Just remember, do not ever make any changes to your prescription on your own and trust your doctor’s expertise.  


  1. Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline. 2023 Feb 13. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 31613469.
  2. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. ZOLOFT (sertraline hydrochloride) tablets, for oral use. Available from:
  3. Lewis G, Duffy L, Ades A, Amos R, Araya R, Brabyn S, Button KS, Churchill R, Derrick C, Dowrick C, The clinical effectiveness of sertraline in primary care and the role of depression severity and duration (PANDA): a pragmatic, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial. Lancet Psychiatry. 2019 Nov;6(11):903-914. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30366-9. Epub 2019 Sep 19. PMID: 31543474; PMCID: PMC7029306.
  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. Londborg PD, Hegel MT, Goldstein S, Goldstein D, Himmelhoch JM, Maddock R, Patterson WM, Rausch J, Farfel GM. Sertraline treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: results of 24 weeks of open-label continuation treatment. J Clin Psychiatry. 2001 May;62(5):325-31. doi: 10.4088/jcp.v62n0503. PMID: 11411812. 
  1. Jermain DM, Preece CK, Sykes RL, Kuehl TJ, Sulak PJ. Luteal phase sertraline treatment for premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Arch Fam Med. 1999 Jul-Aug;8(4):328-32. doi: 10.1001/archfami.8.4.328. PMID: 10418540. 

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