Does sertraline treat PTSD? (3 research studies explained)

In this article, we will discuss whether sertraline can be used for the management and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We will also discuss some research studies, dosage recommendations, and some side effects that one may experience while taking sertraline for PTSD

Does sertraline treat PTSD?

Yes, sertraline can treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment and management of PTSD and related symptoms (1,2). PTSD is a condition associated with stress, anxiety, or depression after experiencing a traumatic event. 

These symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the treatment strategy and overall duration are determined based on the symptoms. Sertraline, being a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), can balance chemicals in the brain that are involved in the pathophysiology of PTSD (2). 

However, it is important to note that sertraline is a prescription medication and should not be used unless prescribed by a qualified mental healthcare professional after proper diagnosis. 

If you think you have PTSD or you keep getting flashbacks of a traumatic event that is affecting the quality of your life, you should consult a professional.

What does research suggest?

Several research studies have indicated that sertraline is a safe and effective option for the management of PTSD, hence its FDA approval for this condition. 

One research study indicated that 92% of the people who took sertraline for the management of PTSD for 12-24 weeks showed a great response (3). 

However, the study emphasized the importance of short-term management of PTSD with sertraline and stressed the need for more research to determine the safety of a long-term treatment approach (3). 

Another 12-week clinical study showed a great response to sertraline for the management of PTSD (4). The most commonly reported side effect was insomnia, which affected some people severely during the study. 

However, the antidepressant was generally well-tolerated and proved to be a safe and effective treatment option for PTSD (4). 

Another research study indicated that the benefits of sertraline for PTSD have made it the first choice of antidepressant for this condition (5). These studies indicate that sertraline does help with PTSD and is considered one of the safest and most well-tolerated options for this condition.

What are the dosage recommendations of sertraline for PTSD?

The dosage recommendations of sertraline for PTSD 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 PTSD?

Sertraline is associated with the following side effects when used for PTSD: (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 can also cause some rare and serious side effects, which may require immediate medical attention. If you ever experience any unusual side effects while taking sertraline or any other antidepressant, you should report them to your doctor right away.

How to ensure the safe use of sertraline for PTSD?

The following steps are important to ensure the safe and effective use of sertraline for the management and treatment of PTSD:

  • Stick to the prescribed dose. Do not take a higher-than-recommended dose or take the medication more often.
  • Take sertraline at the same time each day to maintain a consistent level of the medication in your system.
  • Monitor your side effects and report them to your provider.
  • If you miss the dose, try taking it as soon as you remember. However, if your next dose is just around the corner, do not take the missed dose. Doing so can result in an overdose. Just take your next dose on time and avoid missing your doses in future.
  • In case of overdose, seek immediate attention. Overdosing on sertraline can affect people differently and it’s important to seek professional help to ensure your safety and well-being. 
  • Limit or avoid alcohol consumption while taking sertraline, as alcohol can interact with the medication and can hinder your progress.
  • Consider combining sertraline with psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) or exposure therapy, for better PTSd management. 

What are the alternatives to sertraline for PTSD?

If sertraline fails to manage your symptoms of PTSD, there are some alternatives that you can try. These include:

  • Other SSRIs, including fluoxetine and paroxetine, can be used to manage PTSD symptoms. These medications work like sertraline and have similar side effect profiles.
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), like venlafaxine, can also be used to manage PTSD. These meds work on both serotonin and norepinephrine.
  • Prazosin is an alpha-blocker that has been studied for its potential to reduce nightmares and sleep disturbances in individuals with PTSD (6). It’s not an antidepressant but is sometimes used as an adjunctive therapy for specific PTSD symptoms.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline may be considered in cases where other medications are not well-tolerated. However, TCAs are generally used less frequently due to their side effect profile.
  • Some atypical antipsychotics, such as quetiapine, may be prescribed in addition to antidepressants to address specific symptoms like irritability and mood swings.

As a pharmacist, I always ask my patients to stick to the recommended medication and ensure safe and effective use. Sertraline is generally a good medication for PTSD and I have seen many patients talk about their successful PTSD remission. I remember one of the patients saying:

“I can’t even begin to explain what sertraline does to me. After my husband’s death, my mental health went down the drain and PTSD got the best of me. I still thank my doc for prescribing sertraline. It changed my life!”

It feels good when you hear such things and see people getting better after experiencing their worst nightmares. However, we should also consider the fact that antidepressants do not help everyone. Some people may experience terrible side effects. 

So, it is important to closely monitor your symptoms and your body’s response to the PTSD medication you’re taking. If you notice anything unusual or worrisome, please reach out to your prescribing physician. 


  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. 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. Brady K, Pearlstein T, Asnis GM, Baker D, Rothbaum B, Sikes CR, Farfel GM. Efficacy and safety of sertraline treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2000 Apr 12;283(14):1837-44. doi: 10.1001/jama.283.14.1837. PMID: 10770145. 
  1. Schwartz AC, Rothbaum BO. Review of sertraline in post-traumatic stress disorder. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2002 Oct;3(10):1489-99. doi: 10.1517/14656566.3.10.1489. PMID: 12387695. 
  1. Green B. Prazosin in the treatment of PTSD. J Psychiatr Pract. 2014 Jul;20(4):253-9. doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000452561.98286.1e. PMID: 25036580. 

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