Zoloft shortness of breath (Based on research studies)

In this blog, we are going to discuss shortness of breath caused by zoloft. We will also discuss how zoloft can exacerbate the pre-existing asthma and what could be done to avoid it. We will also share some research studies based on zoloft induced shortness of breath.

Does zoloft cause shortness of breath?

Zoloft can cause shortness of breath in 3-5% of people taking it. This side effect is mostly dose-dependent. It means that this shortness of breath is more common in people on higher doses of zoloft as compared to those who are on much lower doses. 

What does research say?

A 2015 study researched the effects of zoloft on breathing.  It concluded that shortness of breath as a side effect of zoloft is less common and dose-dependent. 

It is more likely to occur in those people who are allergic to sertraline to some extent. If shortness of breath occurs right after taking the first dose of zoloft, it indicates that the med does not suit you, because shortness of breath is not a common side effect of zoloft.

Another 2000 study showed that zoloft overdose can have a fatal impact on pre-existing asthma by causing bronchoconstriction. Overdosing on low strength zoloft would not produce as dangerous effects as a high dose would produce. 

One study revealed that treatment with sertraline can actually help relieve the breathlessness associated with some mental health conditions. 

The team studied breathing issues during sleep and tried to treat it with sertraline. The result concluded that sertraline improved nocturnal breathlessness to some extent just after 6 to 8 weeks of treatment.

A 1996 study suggested that lung conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), often cause depression and panic attacks which can exacerbate the symptoms of breathlessness. 

This effect can significantly reduce after the treatment of such people with zoloft. Some studies suggest that people and their pre-existing health conditions react differently to medications. 

Some asthmatic patients could not tolerate zoloft and it resulted in discontinuation of the treatment. These research studies can help us understand that zoloft produces variable effects on people. 

It is best to discuss your pre-existing health conditions with your healthcare professional before starting antidepressants or any other medication.

Who is at risk of developing zoloft induced shortness of breath? 

People involved with following health conditions are at greater risk of developing zoloft induced shortness of breath:

Chronic breathing difficulties 

People who live with chronic breathing problems like COPD or asthma, are at constant risk of developing breathing difficulties associated with side effects. This is because their respiratory immunity is compromised. 

Chain smoking

Smoking is well known for causing breathing difficulties. It puts people at high risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and lung cancer. 

It can also exacerbate the medication induced shortness of breath and puts you at high risk of developing such side effects in the first place. Make sure you cut back on smoking as much as you can. 

High cholesterol levels

Shortness of breath is a symptom of high cholesterol levels itself. When such a person takes zoloft, he or she is at high risk of developing shortness of breath. 

Elevated HDL levels can cause multiple factors difficulties in people including coronary artery diseases. Make sure your cholesterol levels are within the normal ranges. 


Obesity is another condition that puts you at greater risk of developing multiple diseases. Having excess body fat can make your body extremely heavy and damage your metabolism. 

This puts pressure on your heart and lungs to supply blood and oxygen to every single cell of your body, resulting in shortness of breath and high blood pressure. 

It’s best to try different healthy methods to shed those troublesome pounds, before they create even more complications for you. 


Anaemia is a condition in which your red blood cells are not as many as they should be. This results in decreased oxygen supply to your cells. To compensate for this condition, your lungs have to work much harder, which is why you experience shortness of breath. 

Such anaemic people are more likely to suffer from zoloft induced shortness of breath at higher doses.


Low blood pressure or blood volume can cause shortness of breath and can worsen your side effects. Make sure your blood pressure is normal. 


People who are allergic to sertraline or any other excipients present in zoloft are more likely to suffer from shortness of breath, with or without tightening of chest, wheezing or dizziness.

 If you suffer from such conditions right after taking your first ever dose of zoloft, immediately talk to your healthcare provider. 

What could be done? 

  • Talk to your doctor. Discuss your side effects and make sure you’re at the right dose of zoloft, as studies have suggested that this side effect is dose dependent. 
  • Do not smoke or drink excess of alcohol. These two habits can worsen not one, but many other side effects of zoloft. 
  • Have a cup of black coffee. Studies suggest that caffeine can help relieve breathlessness, but as I said earlier, have a cup of coffee. Don’t increase your caffeine intake drastically if you don’t wish to be subjected to nerve-racking anxiety. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • Consult your doctor to rule out any underlying health condition. 
  • Monitor your trigger factors, if any. 
  • Maintain a healthy diet and sleep at least 7 to 8 hours every night. 

When to call your doctor? 

Immediately consult your healthcare provider if you:

  • Feel your breathlessness getting worse
  • Feel tightening in your chest, along with wheezing 
  • Are not getting enough oxygen in your brain and exhibit symptoms like dizziness, excessive sweating, losing your balance or blackouts. 
  • Experience unexplained weight gain or loss 

What other medications are responsible to cause shortness of breath? 

Following are some other medications which can cause shortness of breath:

  • Antihypertensive agents, including ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers, beta blockers etc. 
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac etc. 
  • Anticonvulsants/Antiepileptics /drugs to treat seizures, including carbamazepine, sodium valproate etc. 
  • Antibiotics, including macrolides (azithromycin, clarithromycin etc), fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, etc), aminoglycosides (streptomycin). 
  • Chemotherapeutic agents or drugs to treat cancer, including vinca alkaloids, taxanes, anthracycline antibiotics etc. 
  • Illicit drugs, including heroine, cocaine, morphine, ephedrine, amphetamines, ecstasy etc. 

Make sure you don’t use the above mentioned drugs with zoloft. Some drugs, when used concomitantly, cause synergistic side effects which are much more pronounced than side effects products by these drugs individually.


In this blog, we discussed zoloft induced shortness of breath. We looked at various research studies and have come to a conclusion that this side effect is indeed dose dependent and it does not affect everyone. It is found more common in people who are at high risk of it. 

Some studies even suggested the beneficial effects of sertraline in relieving breathlessness in people with COPD or asthma induced depression and anxiety. Make sure you tolerate the current dose  of zoloft well. 

If you suffer from troubled breathing along with tightness of chest, wheezing, excessive sweating or blurry vision right after taking your first ever dose, it indicates that you’re allergic to the medicine and can not tolerate it well. It usually results in discontinuation of treatment. 

FAQS: zoloft shortness of breath 

Can antidepressants cause shortness of breath?

Yes, antidepressants can cause shortness of breath but not in everyone who takes it. It is dose dependent and much common in people  who are already suffering from some breathing disorder. 

Does zoloft help with shortness of breath?

A 1995 study suggested that lung conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), often cause depression and panic attacks which can exacerbate the symptoms of breathlessness. This effect can significantly reduce after the treatment of such people with zoloft

Can sertraline cause asthma? 

No, sertraline can not cause asthma, but it can worsen the symptoms by causing bronchoconstriction (narrowing of airways), which can make it even more difficult for an asthma patient to breathe. 

Can you take albuterol with Zoloft?

It is best to discuss such combinations with your healthcare provider. Some combinations do work for other people but not for you. Albuterol and zoloft are capable of producing life threatening arrhythmia, but not in everyone. 

What drugs should not be taken with sertraline?

  • Do not use zoloft with any irreversible monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Concomitant treatment is highly contraindicated due to the risk of serotonin syndrome with symptoms like agitation, tremor and hyperthermia.
  • Do not use zoloft with pimozide. Combining these medications can increase the plasma concentration(availability of a drug in the blood) of pimozide to much higher levels. It can result in life-threatening arrhythmia.
  • Do not use zoloft concomitantly with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), aspirin, anticoagulants like warfarin etc. They can cause prolonged bleeding when used together. 

How can I reduce the side effects of sertraline?

  • Give your body time to adapt. Your body needs time to get used to the medication.
  • Make sure you workout at least 3 to 4 times a week. Exercise is known for releasing happy chemicals in your brain. It not only makes you feel good, but also spikes your energy levels. 
  • Add wholesome foods to your diet and add trigger factors according to the type of side effect you’re going through. If you suffer from zoloft induced acid reflux, make sure you avoid spicy foods and add foods which reduce acidity to your diet. 
  • Drink plenty of water. Water clears out toxins from your body. Try making a detox water by adding your favourite fruits in it. You can add lemon, cucumber, kiwi, oranges, berries, ginger etc, to make drinking water less boring. 

Make sure you don’t stop antidepressants without your doctor’s approval. If your side effects are severe, your doctor might reduce the dose or taper you off zoloft. 

What is the most common side effect of sertraline?

Common side effects of Zoloft include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Feeling angry or agitated
  • Weight gain
  • Inability to digest food
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of libido
  • Sweating/Night sweats
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Impotence
  • Inability to ejaculate


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