Your question: Why do I still have anxiety on Zoloft?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Treating anxiety is a complicated job. Many people dealing with chronic anxiety face something of a roller coaster when it comes to coping with their anxiety symptoms and the existing treatments for them.

It is common that when someone starts taking a medication prescribed by a psychiatrist, they experience side effects and find it difficult to see that the medication is improving their situation. This happens because naturally, medications must be adjusted to each person’s nervous system, and it takes time for them to generate positive effects.

Zoloft, also known as Sertraline, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (1). It is used in both adults and children to treat depression and anxiety problems. Its basic function is to increase serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter necessary for the regulation of emotions and mental stability.

Studies (2) have shown that Zoloft is extremely useful in improving the quality of life of people with anxiety, reducing their symptoms within the first 6 weeks of its use.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering, if I’ve been taking Zoloft for a while now, why do I still have anxiety? There are different reasons for this, and although it is frustrating and stressful, I would like to tell you that everything has a solution, and there are ways to cope with this problem.

Everyone reacts differently to medication. It is likely that either Zoloft is not for you or you are dealing with symptoms that are common to taking Zoloft and will pass with time. Either way, there are strategies and alternatives for coping with this problem.

Remember that any medication you take must be prescribed by a medical professional, and under no circumstances should you stop taking it or change it without asking your psychiatrist first.

Why do you still feel anxious on Zoloft?

There are several reasons that may make you feel anxious after taking Zoloft. All of them should be considered and discussed with your doctor at an upcoming visit:

Side effects

Every medication has side effects. In the case of Zoloft, the side effects are physical and emotional. You are likely to feel nausea, dizziness, insomnia, headache, tremors, sweating and nervousness. These are all characteristic symptoms of anxiety, but in the case of Zoloft, they occur because your body is adjusting to the medication and the new chemical balance it produces in your brain.

Not taking it properly

Changing the doses of a medication can be dangerous, and I strongly advise you to stick to the doses recommended by your doctor. The average dosage of Zoloft varies from 25 to 100 mg daily, depending on the individual, usually in the morning or evening. You must be strict with the time and amount you take it.

Other reasons

Zoloft may not be the right medication for you. You can only know this if you go to your doctor you trust and if it has been several weeks without Zoloft taking effect. Sometimes, some medications do not help a person get better and may even aggravate their symptoms. This is not the person’s fault at all.

Also, it is possible that you are going through a period of high stress and anxiety, which causes you to still feel anxious even when you are on medication. You must remember that medication for anxiety is an adjunct to a complete treatment, but not a magic solution to your problems. If you continue to feel anxious after taking Zoloft, you may need to find better coping strategies for everyday stress.

What can you do to feel less anxious?

Dealing with anxiety is a joint effort. On the one hand, you should strive to apply techniques that help you feel better and cope with anxious episodes, and on the other hand, you should seek professional help when you feel you cannot cope on your own.

Breathing and relaxation

Inhale through your nose for three seconds, exhale through your mouth for another three seconds. This while you close your eyes and feel how slowly the tension in your body decreases. You can apply this exercise for at least 10 minutes a day at different times, and just after experiencing an episode of anxiety.

See your psychiatrist

If the problem with your medication persists after a couple of months, and you feel that it is not doing you any good, you should go to the psychiatrist who prescribed the Zoloft and tell him or her how you feel. Your psychiatrist is a trained and trusted person who knows what is best for you, and will modify the dosage or change the medication to one that better suits your needs.

Keep a record of your emotions

Journaling about your thoughts and emotions when you have anxiety is quite helpful. It allows you to express your concerns in a private space, and helps you better understand the source of your anxiety. Whenever you experience an episode of anxiety, write in your journal the details: what was happening at the time, where and with whom you were, how you felt, and what you did.

In my experience…

Feeling anxiety even after taking Zoloft or any other medication for anxiety and depression is common. Many times we want speed and ease in solving our problems. But the brain demands patience, it must adapt at its own pace to a new medication. However, if after a couple of months of taking the medication the problem persists, and your anxiety remains or worsens, you need to see a professional.

It is not your fault, and possibly not the fault of the doctor who prescribed the Zoloft. These things happen all the time in the process of finding solutions to problems, we are faced with a process of trial and error. With proper attention, you will find a medication that is right for you, and of course, you will apply the techniques you learned here to cope with the feeling of anxiety.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this message proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health.

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