What Is the Connection Between Sertraline and Diarrhea?

Sertraline is designed to treat depression.
Apart from diarrhea, insomnia is another common side effect associated with sertraline.
Diarrhea is the second most likely side effect of taking sertraline.
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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2014
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The connection between sertraline and diarrhea is that the drug has been shown to cause diarrhea in many patients. Diarrhea is one of the most common side effects of sertraline, occurring in over 10 percent of patients who take the drug. This means that diarrhea is roughly as likely to occur as nausea, dizziness, and insomnia in patients taking the drug. The link between sertraline and diarrhea is strongly established, but the drug’s positive effects on the patient’s depression may mean that it is a tolerable side effect of the treatment.

Clinical trials conducted on the effects of sertraline have confirmed the link between sertraline and diarrhea. Diarrhea is actually the second most likely side effect of taking the drug, only being less common than nausea. Around 18 percent of patients who take the drug will experience diarrhea, meaning that just fewer than one in five people will be affected.


Sertraline belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are designed to counteract depression. This effect is believed to be achieved by balancing out the levels of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters within the brain. Serotonin and noradrenaline are believed to be the most closely related to mood, and most antidepressant medicines focus on one of or both of these neurotransmitters. SSRIs such as sertraline balance out the levels of serotonin by preventing the nerves which create the chemical from taking it back up again. This results in more serotonin being available in the brain to stimulate other nerves and alleviate the patient’s mood.

Generally, common side effects only need to be discussed with a doctor if they are particularly persistent or severe. Other common side effects of sertaline include insomnia, dry mouth and fatigue, which all occur in more than one in ten patients taking the treatment. All of these tests are conducted alongside a placebo, in order to show that the side effects are related to the treatment and not an unrelated environmental factor.

Side effects are possible unintended reactions that can occur when taking most drug treatments. These are classified into rare side effects and common side effects by their observed likelihood from clinical trials. Common side effects are generally not as serious as the rare side effects, but are always much more likely to occur. The relationship between sertraline and diarrhea has been observed because diarrhea is a common side effect of the treatment.


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Post 4

I've been on sertraline since January didn't have diarrhea at first, but the last two or three weeks have been awful. Is it normal to get side effects later on?

Post 3
@donasmrs-- You need to be patient with sertraline. It causes diarrhea in many people, but unless the dose is not increased, the diarrhea will go away eventually. This can take up to three months though and some people can't wait so long and so decided to change the medication.

Sertraline has been very effective for my depression, so I put up with the diarrhea for the first few months. I took over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication to counter the effects. And after the third month, my body got used to it and the diarrhea stopped.

I think sertraline is a good drug, it doesn't work for everyone but if it's treating your depression successfully, I think you can tolerate the diarrhea. Of course, you should ask your doctor about this too and not decide on your own.

Post 2

@donasmrs-- I can't speak for everyone but in my case, the diarrhea just got worse. I also had nausea from sertraline and with these two symptoms together, I started losing a lot of weight. I had to go to the bathroom so often that I was getting dehydrated as well. I had to switch to another medication for this reason.

Post 1

I just started taking sertraline and it is giving me diarrhea. I'm wondering, will this side effect go away with time or will it continue?

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