What Is the Difference Between Zoloft and Prozac?

Rohan Mathew

Updated on:

Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States and affects forty million American adults. Thankfully, anxiety disorders are highly treatable.

Medications are often prescribed to treat anxiety and depression. And two of the most common medications are Zoloft and Prozac.

But what exactly are Zoloft and Prozac and how do they differ? By knowing more about them, you’ll be able to make more educated decisions about your own health and well-being.

So if you’re interested in learning more then continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know!

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How Do Zoloft and Prozac Work?

Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline) are both in a category of medications known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Serotonin is a chemical in the body that’s linked to mood as well as other functions like sleep and appetite.

SSRIs work by preventing serotonin from being reabsorbed into neurons. This then makes more serotonin available in the brain. When you increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, you can then improve symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Do They Both Treat the Same Conditions?

Even though Prozac and Zoloft were approved originally to treat depression, they were both also approved to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorders.

However, Zoloft has also been approved to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder while Prozac has not.

How Do You Take Them?

You should take Prozac or Zoloft around the same time every day. This can be with or without food. Because these medications can take a good amount of time to work, it’s very important that you take them as prescribed and don’t miss a dose.

If you do forget to take a dose, then you should take that dose as soon as you remember it. However, you should skip the missed dose if it’s almost time for you to take the next dose. Then, take your next dose at its regular time.

You shouldn’t take two doses at once in order to make up for one that you missed.

Whether or not your symptoms get better, you should not discontinue taking either drug until first consulting with your provider about changing your treatment. Stopping taking Prozac or Zoloft suddenly can lead to withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Insomnia
  • Poor coordination
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness

These withdrawal symptoms can sometimes last up to two weeks. You’re also more likely to experience them if you’ve been taking Prozac or Zoloft for at least six weeks.

How Long Do They Take to Work?

By now, you’re probably wondering how long does it take for Zoloft to work. And you’re most likely wondering the same thing about Prozac.

There’s no one specific answer that’s right for everyone since each person is different. You might notice an improvement with your anxiety within two weeks of taking SSRIs. However, it can take up to six weeks for them to reach their full effects.

Because of this, you should be patient with these drugs. If your anxiety hasn’t gotten better after six weeks, then you should speak with your provider. They might recommend that you take a higher dose or switch to a different medication.

Also, there isn’t really any general amount of time for how long to take Zoloft or Prozac. Some people take them for just a couple of months while others might be on them for many years. You and your doctor can determine when you should stop taking them.

When you’re ready to stop taking them, your doctor can gradually lower your dosage in order to help prevent withdrawal symptoms.

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How Do Zoloft and Prozac Compare on Side Effects?

You might experience side effects while you take Prozac and Zoloft. However, these are often temporary and mild and might last for just a few weeks.

These drugs are known to have very similar side effects. With that said, Zoloft is more likely to cause sexual side effects, stomach issues, and dry mouth. Prozac, on the other hand, is more likely to cause headaches.

Common side effects from both drugs include:

  • Skin rash
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Sexual problems, such as ejaculation problems and decreased libido
  • Tiredness
  • Stomach issues
  • Dizziness

If these side effects are bothering you, then you should consult your doctor. Your doctor might be able to adjust the dost in order to reduce the effects.

There are also some serious side effects associated with Prozac and Zoloft. While these are rare effects, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible if you experience them.

These more serious side effects include:

  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Worsening of symptoms

If you’re pregnant, then you should let your provider know before you start or stop taking Prozac or Zoloft.

Which One Should You Take?

Both Prozac and Zoloft work well to treat OCD and panic disorders. But you may be prescribed Zoloft if you’re dealing with PTSD or social anxiety disorders.

Also, while both have mild side effects, Zoloft has a higher risk of giving you sexual problems and diarrhea. Also, generic Prozac tends to cost less than generic Zoloft.

The Importance of Knowing the Differences Between Zoloft and Prozac  

As we can see, there are many similarities between Zoloft and Prozac but also some distinct differences. By knowing how these medications compare and contrast, you’ll be able to make better decisions without regard to your mental health.

Are you looking for other helpful articles? If so, check out the rest of our blog today for more!