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Does Sertraline Cause Hair Loss?
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on December 4, 2023

Around 7.3 million people in the UK use anti-depressants, which make up 17% of the adult population [1]. Anti-depressants can be extremely vital medication for those who are suffering from depression, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come without their own side effects. One side effect, which may be a cause for concern, is the ability to trigger hair loss.

So does sertraline cause hair loss? Do other anti-depressants have similar side effects?

Read on to learn more about anti-depressants – in particular, sertraline – and why they can sometimes cause your hair to fall out. We’ll also discuss what you can do to prevent this from happening to you and whether there are any treatments out there that can help.

Table of Contents

What is sertraline?

Sertraline is a medication that is commonly prescribed to people suffering from depression. You’ll normally see it under the brand name Zoloft.

It’s one of the most popular antidepressants, with over 20 million prescriptions being dispensed in England in 2021 [2].

Classed under the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) class of antidepressant medications, it can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, anxiety disorders, as well as depressive disorders.

Depression is a mood disorder that involves ongoing feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and anxiety. It can result from a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors.

Anti-depressants like sertraline work by targeting monoamine neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that send messages from the brain to nerves around the body. These are known to affect emotions and mood.

Does sertraline cause hair loss?

It’s not uncommon for certain medications to cause hair loss. Along with other side effects such as nausea, dry mouth, and constipation, sertraline can cause temporary hair loss in some cases.

This temporary hair loss can persist for the amount of time a patient is taking sertraline and can show up as bald patches or hair thinning.

Sertraline-related hair loss appears to be very rare. Only a handful of clinical reports have studied the link between them, and none have conclusively shown that sertraline causes hair loss. Here’s a summary of two studies on sertraline and hair loss:

  • In one case [3], a 21-year-old who was taking sertraline for depressed moods, insomnia, and decreased self-care, experienced hair loss fifteen days after starting his treatment. Then, two weeks after ceasing the treatment of sertraline, the hair loss stopped.
  • A second study examined a 14-year-old male patient, who had been taking sertraline for an extended period of time [4]. Despite having been on sertraline for 5 years, the patient only just started to notice small amounts of hair loss. As soon as the sertraline was tapered gradually and then removed did the patient notice that hair loss stopped.

Many online articles claim that there’s a much stronger link between sertraline and hair loss than the scientific evidence shows. So if you’re taking this anti-depressant, it’s unlikely that you’ll see sertraline-induced hair loss as a result.

Why do antidepressants cause hair loss?

Anti-depressants, like sertraline, can sometimes trigger a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium. This temporary hair loss occurs when an individual experiences stress or hormonal changes that interrupt their hair’s natural growth cycle. Anxiety and depression themselves can cause telogen effluvium.

hair growth cycle

Telogen effluvium is excessive, non-scarring hair shedding that affects hair follicles in the ‘resting’ phase. The mechanism behind anti-depressant-induced hair loss isn’t yet known, although there is some suggestion they can change the hair structure, which may contribute to hair loss [3].

However, hair loss caused by anti-depressants is rarely permanent. Any active hair loss should stop once you’ve come off the medication. It can take up to 6 months for your hair growth to return to normal.

Can other anti-depressants cause hair loss?

Other anti-depressants can also trigger hair loss. Medications like fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), and Citalopram (Celexa) are all thought to induce hair loss in some patients.

However, hair loss is just one of the many side effects that patients can experience when taking anti-depressants. The large majority of people who take these types of medication will not experience hair loss so it should not be seen as a major deterrent. And if you’re already taking anti-depressants, it’s very important to seek medical advice before you stop taking them.

Hair loss associated with anti-depressants (along with other psychotropic drugs) is usually self-limiting, which means it’s unlikely you’ll see drastic hair loss as a result of your medication [5]. Unfortunately, it can understandably still be distressing — so here’s how you can treat your hair loss.

How to treat hair loss caused by sertraline

If you have started to notice hair loss or hair thinning since taking sertraline, it’s not recommended to come off the medication as a first resort. If you’re worried, you should seek medical attention before making any changes to your dosage.

Telogen effluvium is a temporary condition, so the hair may regrow on its own after a while.

Your healthcare practitioner may also be able to recommend some of the following treatments that can help to tackle your hair loss problems, without interfering with your anti-depressants. Minoxidil, a topical hair loss solution, may help. However, you shouldn’t start taking or using any hair loss without consulting with your doctor first, as they may interact with sertraline.

In most cases, patience and/or the right medication should help you regrow any lost or thinning hair while taking sertraline, or help with hair regrowth once you’ve finished taking the anti-depressant.

To find out more about the appropriate hair loss solution for you, book a free consultation at the Wimpole Clinic today.

Does Sertraline Cause Hair Loss?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on December 4, 2023
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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