Does sertraline treat generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)? 

In this article, we will discuss whether sertraline can be used for the management and treatment of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). We will also discuss some research studies and the potential side effects of sertraline when used for GAD. 

Does sertraline treat generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)?

Yes, sertraline does treat generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). It is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for the management of GAD like escitalopram, but it can be used off-label for this condition and can help some people significantly (1,2). 

Sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that works in the same way as escitalopram does and can manage a variety of mental health-related symptoms. 

However, it is a prescription medication that should never be used without the approval of a qualified healthcare provider. So, if you think you have anxiety that is not temporary or is affecting the quality of your life, please seek medical attention.

What does research suggest?

Several research studies have discussed the effects of sertraline in the management and treatment of GAD. One placebo-controlled study indicated that people who took sertraline for GAD showed greater symptomatic relief compared to those who took a placebo (3). 

Another 12-week study showed a good response to sertraline therapy in patients with generalised anxiety disorder (4). The participants felt relief in their symptoms within 4 weeks, and more prominent effects were seen until week 12. 

The study concluded that sertraline could be a safe and effective antidepressant for the management of GAD. Some research studies have also indicated that sertraline can help manage severe general and social anxiety disorders and showed good responses. (5)

These studies show us that sertraline, although not specifically approved for GAD, can be a good medication for this condition and can improve the quality of life. However, as discussed earlier, it’s a prescription medication and should only be taken when prescribed by a qualified healthcare professional.

What are the dosage recommendations of sertraline for GAD?

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

Age groupsSertraline doses
Adults The initial dose is 25mg once daily. The dose can be increased up to 200mg/day, but not more than that.
Children The dose must be decided by a doctor, based on age, body weight, and the severity of symptoms. 

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

Sertraline is associated with the following side effects when used for GAD: (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 fails to manage GAD properly?

If sertraline fails to manage your GAD effectively, please reach out to your doctor. It is worth noting that sertraline does not provide relief in anxiety symptoms right away. It takes time for this antidepressant to work and for your body to adjust to it. 

If you are a new user, it’s best to give sertraline some time to work. However, sertraline might not be the best choice of antidepressant for everyone. If it fails to help your condition or if it’s not the right choice for you, your doctor will explore alternative treatment options. 

However, you should wait for the med to work first before deciding to switch. Sertraline can take more than 4 weeks, and in some cases, even more, to show noticeable improvement in symptoms. 

You can also try behavioural therapies to cope with your anxiety and therapy sessions to promote the recovery of your mental health. Some doctors may combine sertraline with benzodiazepines like clonazepam, diazepam, etc., to help manage early anxiety while taking sertraline. 

However, benzodiazepines, being Schedule IV controlled substances, should not be used for the long term. Although such combinations help manage anxiety comorbid with depression, they are associated with side effects and should be carefully prescribed.

What are the alternatives to sertraline for GAD?

The following drugs can be used to manage GAD if sertraline does not work:

  • Other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Other SSRIs, such as escitalopram (Lexapro), are approved for GAD. All of these meds balance serotonergic activity in the brain to help with anxiety symptoms. 
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs like venlafaxine (Effexor XR) are another class of antidepressants approved for GAD. They work by increasing the levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine, contributing to a positive impact on mood.
  • Benzodiazepines: While not typically the first choice due to the potential for dependence, benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax) may be prescribed for short-term relief of severe anxiety symptoms. They act on the central nervous system to produce a calming effect.
  • Buspirone: Buspirone is an anti-anxiety medication specifically approved for GAD. It works by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain and can be useful for managing long-term anxiety symptoms.

As a pharmacist, I always ask my patients to stick to their doctor’s prescription. Switching medications that can affect your brain chemistry should never be done without professional supervision. If you think that sertraline does not provide adequate relief for your symptoms, just discuss it with your provider.


  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. Brawman-Mintzer O, Knapp RG, Rynn M, Carter RE, Rickels K. Sertraline treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 Jun;67(6):874-81. doi: 10.4088/jcp.v67n0603. PMID: 16848646. 
  1. Allgulander C, Dahl AA, Austin C, Morris PL, Sogaard JA, Fayyad R, Kutcher SP, Clary CM. Efficacy of sertraline in a 12-week trial for generalized anxiety disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Sep;161(9):1642-9. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.161.9.1642. PMID: 15337655. 
  1. Liebowitz MR, DeMartinis NA, Weihs K, Londborg PD, Smith WT, Chung H, Fayyad R, Clary CM. Efficacy of sertraline in severe generalized social anxiety disorder: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Clin Psychiatry. 2003 Jul;64(7):785-92. doi: 10.4088/jcp.v64n0708. PMID: 12934979. 
  1. Munir S, Takov V. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 2022 Oct 17. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 28722900. 

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