Prozac Versus Zoloft: Which Is Right For You?

Just as no two people are alike, each person's health is unique and the medications that are right for them can be dependent on individual needs. 

For many people with mental health diagnoses including, but not limited to, anxiety, depression, panic disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), treatment may include prescription medications like Prozac and Zoloft, per MedicalNewsToday. Both of these medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the effective treatment of several neurological and psychiatric conditions, which means that Prozac and Zoloft have been extensively studied and have been found to be safe treatment options.

Prozac and Zoloft are both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which belong to a class of medications intended to increase the amount of a chemical called serotonin in the body, according to GoodRx Health. Medications classified as SSRIs can encourage more serotonin to reach the brain, in turn affecting a person's mood, sleep, and appetite, improving symptoms that are often present with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. 

Prozac and Zoloft are medications that share similarities but also have several differences, so deciding which one is right for you is a very individualized decision. Always remember to discuss medications with your healthcare provider.

Prozac benefits and side effects

You may hear Prozac referred to as fluoxetine, which is the generic name for the medication, per WebMD. It is available in capsule form. 

Similar to Zoloft, Prozac is used to treat anxiety, depression, OCD, and panic disorders. Like Zoloft, Prozac can boost mood and help manage intrusive symptoms experienced from depression and anxiety. However, unlike Zoloft, Prozac has also been approved to treat disordered eating conditions like bulimia nervosa. For eating disorders, the symptoms that Prozac can help to control include purging, binging, and obsessive behaviors. The FDA has approved Prozac for children as young as 7 years old when it comes to treating OCD, and children aged 8 and older for symptoms related to depression (via Healthline). Fluoxetine has been found to be safe for adult use when it comes to an array of mental health conditions. 

Side effects of Prozac can be similar to the side effects of Zoloft, with headaches, dry mouth, sleep disruptions, and nausea or upset stomach listed as common side effects. Additional side effects of Prozac can be weight gain or loss.

Zoloft benefits and side effects

The generic name for Zoloft is sertraline hydrochloride. Most often, Zoloft is available in capsule form but it can also be dispensed in a liquid concentrate solution, both of which are taken orally. 

It is prescribed mainly for adult use, though it can be effective for children aged 6 and older who have been diagnosed with OCD (via Healthline).  Zoloft and Prozac can treat many of the same conditions, like panic disorders, anxiety, depression, and OCD, but there are also conditions that Zoloft is effective in treating that Prozac is not approved to treat. The conditions for which Zoloft is exclusively approved to treat include social anxiety, social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), side effects of Zoloft can encompass headaches, sweating, dry mouth, upset stomach or diarrhea, and sleep disruptions on a spectrum from excessive sleepiness to insomnia. It's extremely important to continue taking Zoloft as prescribed by your doctor, even if you begin to feel your symptoms subside. Skipping a dose of Zoloft or abruptly stopping the medication can lead to experiences of withdrawal, the return of original symptoms, and other detrimental health effects. It's advised that you consult with your healthcare provider about any side effects you may experience while taking Zoloft. Notify your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding so he or she can advise you regarding the risks versus benefits of using this medication. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. Sertraline can have adverse effects when mixed with alcohol.

Speak with your healthcare provider and ask any questions you have about the differences between Prozac and Zoloft to determine which one is right for you.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.