What Is the Connection between Citalopram and Sertraline?

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
Sertraline and citalopram are commonly used to treat depression.
Sertraline and citalopram are commonly used to treat depression.

Citalopram and sertraline are both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used for the treatment of depression. The drugs prevent the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin by other nerves within the brain. Doctors believe this action allows the serotonin to improve the mood of depressed patients for longer and thereby combat depression. They are also both prescribed for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Both drugs can cause side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, dry mouth, and dizziness.

Both citalopram and sertraline can be prescribed to help treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Both citalopram and sertraline can be prescribed to help treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Neurotransmitters are chemicals released by the nerves in the brain. These travel from one nerve to another as a means for the brain to communicate, making them chemical messengers. They affect nearby nerve cells on their journey and then are removed from the brain by the destination nerve. Several different neurotransmitters are found within the brain, and they all serve different functions. Doctors believe that serotonin is directly related to mood, and drugs such as citalopram and sertraline focus on this neurotransmitter.

Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.

The action of citalopram and sertraline is the same, so they are in the same class of medicines. An imbalance of neurotransmitters within the brain is believed to be the cause of depression. SSRIs prevent nerves within the brain from taking up serotonin that is released. This means that the serotonin is free to roam around the brain for longer and consequently improve mood. The precise cause of depression is not known, however, so the effect of this mechanism is largely theoretical.

SSRIs like citalopram and sertraline are used to treat the same conditions. The drugs are most frequently prescribed for depression, which is a consistent feeling of sadness that lasts for weeks or months. Both citalopram and sertraline can be used to treat OCD as well, which is the compulsion to repeat the same actions over and over again. SSRIs also treat other conditions such as PTSD, which is an anxiety disorder caused by particularly traumatic events. These conditions don’t necessarily require medication, but SSRIs are usually used in cases where medication is needed.

Side effects caused by citalopram and sertraline are generally similar. The most common side effects associated with both treatments include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea. Doctors encourage patients to manage these symptoms where possible through diet and rest. The drugs also cause dry mouth and excess sweating in some patients. These are common side effects, and are not usually cause to stop taking the medication.

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Discussion Comments

turquoise

Citalopram and sertraline are about the same strength but they have different half-lives. Sertraline's half-life is 23 hours, citalopram's is about 35.

bluedolphin

@ysmina-- If citalopram and sertraline are as similar as the article says, I don't think one would be better than the other. Plus, it takes about six months to see the full effects of SSRIs. So it's too soon in your case.

I have not used sertraline but I was on citalopram for two years. I've also used escitalopram and fluoxetine in the past which are also SSRIs, as well as alprazolam for only a few days.

Of all the anxiety/medications I tried, citalopram seemed to cause the least side effects and worked the best for me. I'm not a fan of antidepressant medications and try to quit them as soon as I feel better. I used citalopram for a long time by my standards because of just how well it worked.

But citalopram is not free of side effects either. I only realized this after I quit the medication. Quitting was extremely difficult due to the withdrawal side effects, that's one thing. After quitting, I realized that citalopram had been preventing emotions in me. I started feeling things again after quitting. It's seems odd but it's true. This medication had made me emotionless.

I also developed hypothyroidism which I believe was the side effect citalopram. My hypothyroidism disappeared after I quit the medication. So SSRIs are not perfect. They're a double edged sword. They heal you but mess you up at the same time.

ysmina

My doctor told me that citalopram or sertraline are the best choices for me and put me on sertraline. It has been a few months, but I'm not seeing any improvement in my depression symptoms. I wonder if I would have done better on citalopram. Has anyone used both of these medications? Which is better?

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    • Sertraline and citalopram are commonly used to treat depression.
      Sertraline and citalopram are commonly used to treat depression.
    • Both citalopram and sertraline can be prescribed to help treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
      Both citalopram and sertraline can be prescribed to help treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
    • Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
      Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.