Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety affect millions of people worldwide. While therapy and lifestyle changes can be effective treatments, medications like antidepressants can also be helpful for managing symptoms. Two commonly prescribed antidepressants are Effexor and Wellbutrin. Both drugs work differently to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, and they each have their own unique benefits and potential side effects.

If you or a loved one are considering taking antidepressants, it's important to understand the differences between Effexor and Wellbutrin to make an informed decision about which medication may be the best fit. In this article, we'll explore the benefits, usage, and potential side effects of both Effexor and Wellbutrin.

What is the Difference Between Effexor and Wellbutrin?

Are Effexor XR and Wellbutrin the same thing?

No. Effexor XR is the extended-release form of venlafaxine. Venlafaxine is in a class of antidepressants called an SNRI, or selective serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Wellbutrin is the same as bupropion. Bupropion is an atypical antidepressant that reduces the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine.

What conditions do Effexor and Wellbutrin Treat?

  • Effexor
  • Adults: Effexor is FDA approved to treat adults with major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Effexor is also sometimes used to prevent migraines, treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), neuropathic pain, and cataplexy off-label. Off-label indicates that the use is not an official FDA approved use.
  • Pediatrics: Effexor is not FDA approved for the treatment of pediatric patients although it is still used off-label to treat MDD, GAD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and cataplexy.
  • Wellbutrin
  • Adults: Wellbutrin is FDA approved to treat adults with MDD, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or to help stop smoking. Off-label it is also used for ADHD.
  • Pediatrics: Wellbutrin is not FDA approved to treat pediatric patients although it is still prescribed to treat MDD, ADHD, and to help stop smoking off-label.

What are the Side Effects of Effexor and Wellbutrin?

  • Effexor
  • Common side effects: anxiety, constipation/diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, dyspepsia, flatulence, headache, high blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, sexual dysfunction, sweating tremor, weakness, weight loss
  • Serious side effects: suicidal thoughts, increased depression, mania/hypomania, bleeding, seizures, low sodium, pancreatitis, extrapyramidal symptoms, major rash, cardiomyopathy, pneumonia
  • Wellbutrin
  • Common side effects: abnormal dreams, agitation, blurred vision, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, excessive sweating, flatulence, flu syndrome, headache/migraine, insomnia, nausea/vomiting, pharyngitis, rash, tachycardia, tremor, tinnitus
  • Serious side effects: suicidal thoughts, neuropsychiatric disorders, mania/hypomania, increased depression, homicidal ideation, seizures, high blood pressure, angle-closure glaucoma, major rash, hepatotoxicity, low sodium

What medications Interact with Effexor and Wellbutrin?

Effexor has multiple interactions; always let your pharmacist and prescriber know every thing you take as a prescription or over the counter. Major interactions can occur with concurrent use of Adderall, Cymbalta, and Vyvanse. Additionally, Effexor can increase your risk of bleeding, therefore, if you are on a blood thinner or aspirin you may have a higher risk of bleeding than expected. There are other interactions not listed here.

Wellbutrin is metabolized mainly by the CYP2D6 enzyme, thus other medications affecting this enzyme may interact negatively with Wellbutrin. Many medications interact with Wellbutrin including amantadine, flecainide, other antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, benzodiazepines, cimetidine, systemic corticosteroids, lamotrigine, some anticancer medications, some antivirals, phenytoin, warfarin, and others.

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What are the Pros and Cons of Effexor?

What are the Positive Effects of Effexor?

  • Improved mood: Effexor is effective in reducing symptoms of depression, including sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities.
  • Reduced anxiety: Effexor is effective in reducing excessive worry, fear, and panic attacks.
  • Increased energy: Effexor may increase energy level which can lead to feeling more motivated and becoming more engaged in activities.
  • Effexor is less likely to lead to weight gain and fewer sexual side effects.
  • Effexor may help reduce neuropathic pain, adding the benefit of pain relief in some.

What is Effexor Most Commonly Used For?

  • To improve mood, increase energy, and reduce feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • To reduce excessive worry, fear, and nervousness
  • To help reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.

What are the Negative Effects of Effexor?

  • Nausea and headache can be common, especially during the first few weeks of treatment.
  • Some people may experience insomnia, while others may feel sleepy. Changing when you take your medicine may help overcome these side effects.
  • Blood pressure may increase, especially in patients on higher doses.
  • Discontinuing Effexor must be done slowly in a step wise fashion to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Skipping multiple doses can also initiate withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal include dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, and vomiting, as well as electric shock sensations.
  • Serotonin syndrome, or serotonin toxicity, is a potentially life-threatening condition that can also occur.

What are the Pros and Cons of Wellbutrin?

What are the Positive Effects of Wellbutrin?

  • Wellbutrin helps treat seasonal affective disorder, where patients feel depressed or off when the daylight hours are short.
  • To improve mood and increase energy.
  • Wellbutrin may reduce appetite, adding the benefit of weight loss/control in patients.
  • Wellbutrin helps people quit smoking by reducing nicotine cravings.
  • Wellbutrin is considered a Category B pregnancy risk, making it one of the less dangerous antidepressants for pregnant mothers.
  • Wellbutrin may improve sexual functioning in some.

What is Wellbutrin Most Commonly Used For?

  • Major depressive disorder: As an antidepressant, Wellbutrin is used to treat the symptoms of depression such as sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities.
  • Seasonal affective disorder: Wellbutrin is one of the few medications available FDA approved to treat seasonal affective disorder. Due to its minor discontinuation symptoms this medication can be used seasonally.
  • Smoking cessation: Wellbutrin helps patients stop smoking by reducing nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • ADHD: Wellbutrin is now occasionally being used to treat ADHD symptoms, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.

What are the Negative Effects of Wellbutrin?

  • Headaches and nausea can be common, especially during the first few weeks of treatment.
  • Dry mouth, insomnia, and constipation may occur and could be disruptive.
  • Patients sometimes may feel agitated or may experience an increased heart rate or palpitations. These often diminish after the first few weeks of treatment.
  • Wellbutrin may increase seizure risk. If you have a history of seizures this might not be the most appropriate medication for you.
  • Weight loss, while positive for some, may be something you need to avoid.


Effexor and Wellbutrin are both antidepressant medications that can be useful for multiple purposes. Often one medication may lead to greater side effects than another; or one may provide better relief than another. Knowing ahead of time which one is most likely to benefit you can save you both time and money. Patients treated for depression often go through multiple trials of medications just to find one that works. Avoid the trial and error and have your genetics tested so that you can get back to living your life. ClarityX offers the Mindwell test to help you and your prescriber decide which medicine may work the best. With a simple cheek swab, you could be on the way to feeling like your old self again.

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