What to do if sertraline makes you forgetful? (3 helpful ways)

What to do if sertraline makes you forgetful? (3 helpful ways)

The following steps can help if sertraline is making you forgetful: 

  • Talk to your healthcare provider
  • Engage in memory-boosting activities
  • Cut back on alcohol

Talk to your healthcare provider

It’s best to reach out to your doctor if you think sertraline is affecting your memory. Your doctor will determine whether this antidepressant is affecting your memory or cognition negatively, or if it’s safe for you to continue using sertraline or not. 

Sertraline, a commonly prescribed antidepressant, is not known to significantly affect your memory or make you forgetful (1,2). However, people are different and can respond differently to medications. 

In general, it is highly unlikely for new users to experience memory issues on sertraline, but this antidepressant affects serotonin levels to which people can respond differently. 

If sertraline affects your cognition, your doctor will adjust your treatment plan or consider alternative treatment options. However, make sure you do not change your prescription on your own.

Engage in memory-boosting activities

You can also engage in memory-boosting activities to help improve your cognition, learning, and memory. There are plenty of things you can try. These things may require some time to work, as doing them once or twice can’t magically improve your cognition. 

However, repeatedly engaging in such activities can make a difference. Some of these include:

Memory gamesEngage in games like memory card matching, jigsaw puzzles, or online memory exercises.
Learning a new skillChallenge your brain by picking up a new skill or hobby, such as playing a musical instrument or painting.
Regular physical exerciseExercise has been linked to improved cognitive function, including memory. 
Reading aloudRead books or articles aloud to engage both visual and auditory senses, enhancing memory retention.
Healthy dietConsume foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins that support brain health.
Quality sleepEnsure you get adequate and quality sleep, as it plays a crucial role.

Cut back on alcohol

Another important point is to make sure that you cut back on alcohol. Alcohol or substance abuse can significantly affect your cognition. Depression itself is a mind-numbing illness, and it can affect your memory and your overall mental health if not treated properly in the long run. 

Even if you’re taking antidepressants but continue to drink alcohol excessively or engage in any activity that isn’t helping your depression, you won’t achieve your therapeutic goals that easily. 

Alcohol is a CNS depressant and it exacerbates clinical depression, affects your body’s natural ability to heal, can trigger suicidal behaviour, and can affect the quality of life (3). Alcohol addiction is quite problematic, and it’s not easy to let go of it. 

So, if you’re combining alcohol with sertraline, you might experience more pronounced effects on your memory. Sertraline itself does not affect your cognition and can actually improve it by managing depression.

What is the link between sertraline and memory issues?

There is limited research on memory issues related to sertraline, and this antidepressant is not considered to have negative effects on cognition. However, research has indicated that sertraline can cause forgetfulness in long-term users. 

Some research studies focused on the effects of sertraline on cognition and memory in older adults but did not find any association between them (4). The test participants showed no signs of forgetfulness, and their cognition did not seem to be affected. 

There were some non-responders as well, but these people still didn’t experience cognitive impairment; they just didn’t respond to the drug. In some case reports, sertraline showed other side effects such as tics, and individuals in these cases did experience forgetfulness to some extent (5). 

Another research study monitored the effect of sertraline administration in healthy volunteers and found no negative effects on cognition (6). These studies indicate that while sertraline is not commonly associated with forgetfulness, it can still cause this side effect in some people.

What people are more susceptible to forgetfulness while taking sertraline?

Some people could be more susceptible to forgetfulness while taking sertraline, including:

  • People with pre-existing health conditions, especially those affecting cognitive function or memory, may be more susceptible to forgetfulness while on sertraline.
  • Taking multiple medications simultaneously can increase the likelihood of drug interactions and side effects, including forgetfulness. 
  • Older individuals may be more susceptible to forgetfulness while taking sertraline.
  • Those with a history of memory problems or cognitive impairments may experience increased forgetfulness while on sertraline. 
  • Individuals who are generally more sensitive to medications may experience forgetfulness as a side effect. Personal variations in drug responses can affect how the body reacts to sertraline.
  • Poor lifestyle habits, such as lack of sleep or inadequate nutrition, can contribute to forgetfulness. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can enhance the effects of your medication.

Sertraline and cognition

In my experience as a pharmacist, I have not come across many cases of sertraline-induced forgetfulness. However, this antidepressant can affect people differently. 

Elderly individuals could be more susceptible to sertraline-induced memory changes or cognition issues, especially those with pre-existing underlying health conditions. 

It is important to note that antidepressants may not be well tolerated by everyone, and individual-specific factors have a lot to do with it. So, it’s best to keep an eye on your side effects and report them to your doctor.


  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. Costardi JV, Nampo RA, Silva GL, Ribeiro MA, Stella HJ, Stella MB, Malheiros SV. A review on alcohol: from the central action mechanism to chemical dependency. Rev Assoc Med Bras (1992). 2015 Aug;61(4):381-7. doi: 10.1590/1806-9282.61.04.381. PMID: 26466222. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26466222/ 
  1. Schulkens JE, Deckers K, Jenniskens M, Blokland A, Verhey FR, Sobczak S. The effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors on memory functioning in older adults: A systematic literature review. J Psychopharmacol. 2022 May;36(5):578-593. doi: 10.1177/02698811221080462. Epub 2022 Apr 29. PMID: 35486412; PMCID: PMC9112622. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9112622/
  1. Rua A, Damásio J. Tics Induced by Sertraline: Case Report and Literature Review. Mov Disord Clin Pract. 2014 Jun 4;1(3):243-244. doi: 10.1002/mdc3.12044. PMID: 30713857; PMCID: PMC6353397. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6353397/ 
  1. 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/ 

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