After getting sober I started taking the Sertraline that was prescribed for my Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder.
Since trying several medications on and off for the last decade with little, if any, positive outcome, I had been terrified of what this drug might do to me. So self-medicating with alcohol seemed to be the most viable option to me at the time.
I spent the first two weeks on a minimal 25mg dose, gradually increasing to a full 100mg over the course of two months and this my horrific experience.
What is sertraline?
Sertraline is the generic brand of Zoloft. It’s an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). It affects the chemicals in the brain and is most often prescribed for anxiety, panic, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).
There is an extensive list of precautions and side effects as with any medication that aims to balance the chemicals in your brain. So, I did my research. I even took the time to read reviews, Reddit threads and Quora answers to the most common questions proposed by those new to the medication.
How does sertraline work?
Sertraline (Zoloft) works by slowing the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain. Because serotonin is normally absorbed quickly, this slowing is allows additional messages to be transmitted between neurons, and is believed to boost your mood.
How long did it take for sertraline to work?
I definitely started to see improvement in my generalized anxiety within 2 weeks. This is a medication that takes time to build up in your system and is usually why you’re started on a low dose and encouraged to continue increasing it over time.
What side effects did you experience on sertraline?
Here we go- the dreaded side effects. Yep, they are real. And no they’re not great.
1.) Loss of appetite: Who needs food? I’m a bit chubby because of all the wine drinking I had
been doing so the loss of appetite didn’t really faze me. I was, and am still craving chocolate and sugar like a mad woman, so the realization that I haven’t eaten anything aside from Reece Peanut Butter cups for the entire day didn’t bother me.
2). Loss of emotions: I don’t get as invested in every single thing that tugs on my heart strings. I rarely cry during movies anymore but still find myself getting excited with the thought of spending time with a handsome new love interest. I feel like me, only better.
3). Loss of energy: This may or may not be attributed to Sertraline, I’ve heard the body can take a few months to heal when you’re a long-time wine drinker gone alcohol-free but the timing coincides, so I’ll mention it. I struggle quite a bit in the mornings, and late afternoons. I nap around 4pm-6pm daily and my motivation is lacking.
4). Loss of freaking sanity: I have been on a full 100mg of Sertraline for the past week or so. My panic disorder seems to have moved from a few daytime trips to utterly explosive night time terrors. I wake nearly every night from a panic attack and most recently had a terrifying hallucination that prompted me to grab my son and dog and make them snooze beside me in my queen sized bed.
I had woken up in the middle of the night to a low hum. I rubbed my eyes, turned onto my back and my surroundings were strangely wavy and unsteady. The colors of my room were vivid but lacking in detail, like the graining in my armoire, and the swirls in the light fixture above me. It was as if I was seeing everything through a smooth filter.
As my eyes failed to adjust, my heart started pounding and my body burned with a heat I’d never felt before. I turned back onto my side and called for my son but my voice echoed; bouncing back to me as soon as the words left my lips.
I started my breathing exercises to slow my heart rate and listened to see if I could hear the cars passing by on my fairly busy street. Eventually, I was able to hear one and sat up to have a drink of water and a cigarette before waking my little to snuggle.
So does Sertraline help with GAD and Panic Disorder?
Everyone is different so I’d suggest talking to your doctor. For me – since the hallucination, I made an appointment and lowered my dose back to 50mg. That seemed to be when I felt the best and wasn’t waking up thinking I was losing my mind.
The good outweighs the bad and I’m just a better, saner and calmer person on Sertraline. Sure, I wish I could handle my anxiety and panic disorder without prescription medication. But I’ve tried, multiple times, and I just don’t want to fall back into alcoholism.
Do you have any questions about what it’s like to take Sertraline? Drop me a line, and know that you are not alone!
And remember, just breathe.