What to do if sertraline makes you zone out? (3+ tips)

If sertraline makes you zone out, the following ways can help manage it:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider
  • Try to stay focused on your tasks
  • Keep track of your zoning-out episodes
  • Try activities to improve your focus

Talk to your healthcare provider

If sertraline is making you zone out, talk to your healthcare provider. Zoning out could be a potential side effect of this antidepressant that may affect some people more than others. However, once sertraline kicks in and your body adjusts to it, it can improve your focus (1,2). 

However, it may affect your focus or make you zone out during the early course of your treatment. It is also important to note that zoning out could be a direct symptom of depression or any other condition for which you are taking sertraline in the first place. 

If sertraline is affecting your focus, your doctor will help you out. They may try dose reduction, especially if you’re new to sertraline or your dose has recently been increased, which can help with the side effects. 

However, if sertraline is severely affecting your focus and not helping your symptoms, your doctor may consider alternative treatment options. Just make sure you do not make any changes to your prescription on your own.

Try to stay focused on your tasks

Try to stay focused on your task. For example, if you’re talking to someone, deliberately focus on that person and what they’re talking about, and see if your focus gets disturbed. Zoning out could be a natural thing in some cases, especially when a lot is going on in your mind. 

Healthy people who are not on any medications may also zone out from time to time, but they can remain focused on things they want to focus on. So, try to focus on a specific thing and see if you zone out in the middle. This can help you understand how frequent your zoning-out episodes are.

Keep track of your zoning-out episodes

Keeping track of your zoning-out episodes can help you and your doctor understand the severity of this side effect and if there is anything that triggers it. 

Based on this information, your doctor can determine whether it’s something that needs treatment or if you can ignore it for a while and give the medication some time to work. This is also important as some people may have jobs that include driving or operating heavy machinery. 

If you zone out in the middle of this, it can cause accidents. So, your doctor will determine based on the frequency and severity of your episode whether it’s safe for you to engage in any activity that requires your full mental alertness. 

Here’s a chart that you can copy and put important details to discuss with your doctor on your next visit:

(Specify where you were when the episode occurred)
Activity before episode(Describe the task or activity you were engaged in before zoning out.)Duration (Estimate how long the episode lasted)Emotional state(Note your emotional state both before and during the episode)Impact(Describe how the episode affected you and your ongoing activities- did you stop what you were doing?)

Try activities to improve your focus

Try different activities to improve your focus and strengthen your memory. Your brain can be trained if you work hard on it, and the more you engage it in productive activities, the healthier it will become. Some examples of such activities include: (3,4,5)

Mind-boosting gamesEngage in games that challenge your cognitive abilities, such as Sudoku, crossword puzzles, or chess.
Meditation and mindfulnessPractice meditation techniques to enhance focus and promote a calm mental state.
Physical exerciseRegular physical activity has been linked to improved cognitive function and focus. Try walking, jogging, or yoga.
Reading Choose books or articles that capture your interest. This improves focus and learning.
Brain training appsExplore apps designed to train and challenge your brain, targeting memory, attention, and problem-solving.

Does zoning out mean that sertraline isn’t working?

Zoning out might mean that sertraline hasn’t kicked in yet, especially in cases of new sertraline use. As discussed earlier, depression and related mental health conditions can also make you zone out. 

So, there might be a chance that your zoning-out episodes are not actually linked to sertraline but to the mental health condition you’re using it for. It’s best to discuss it with your doctor and give sertraline some time to work and help your symptoms.

Understanding the impact of sertraline on your brain

In my experience as a pharmacist, I have come across people who experienced zoning out while taking sertraline. However, most of these people got better as their bodies adjusted to the antidepressant. 

Sertraline, when it starts working, can help improve focus and treat conditions that can make you zone out or affect your productivity/creativity. However, we all have a unique psychological makeup and can respond differently to medications. 

Since sertraline affects serotonin levels in the brain, which is an excitatory chemical, people can give different responses to this change. So, it’s best to keep an eye on your side effects and report anything that concerns you 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
  2. Popovic D, Vieta E, Fornaro M, Perugi G. Cognitive tolerability following successful long-term treatment of major depression and anxiety disorders with SSRI antidepressants. J Affect Disord. 2015 Mar 1;173:211-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.11.008. Epub 2014 Nov 15. PMID: 25462418. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25462418/
  3. Dartigues JF, Foubert-Samier A, Le Goff M, Viltard M, Amieva H, Orgogozo JM, Barberger-Gateau P, Helmer C. Playing board games, cognitive decline and dementia: a French population-based cohort study. BMJ Open. 2013 Aug 29;3(8):e002998. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002998. PMID: 23988362; PMCID: PMC3758967. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758967/
  4. Ching-Teng Y. Effect of board game activities on cognitive function improvement among older adults in adult day care centers. Soc Work Health Care. 2019 Oct;58(9):825-838. doi: 10.1080/00981389.2019.1656143. Epub 2019 Aug 21. PMID: 31432758. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31432758/
  5. Mandolesi L, Polverino A, Montuori S, Foti F, Ferraioli G, Sorrentino P, Sorrentino G. Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits. Front Psychol. 2018 Apr 27;9:509. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00509. PMID: 29755380; PMCID: PMC5934999. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5934999/ 

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