Wellbutrin vs. Prozac: Differences & Comparison of Effectiveness

June 20, 2021

Wellbutrin (also known as Bupropion) and Prozac (also known as Fluoxetine) are two antidepressant medications that can be used for a number of mental health conditions. They’re only available by prescription from a doctor.

Both Wellbutrin and Prozac are used similarly and have similar features. However, there are a number of differences between them. Comparing and contrasting the two can give you a better idea of which one might be right for you. 

Drug Class

Prozac is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, belonging to the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drug class. Serotonin is a hormone that helps regulate many of your day to day processes like mood and sleep. SSRIs work by inhibiting the reabsorption of serotonin into the brain’s neurons, resulting in more serotonin being available for your brain to use. 

Wellbutrin, on the other hand, belongs to a class known as aminoketones. It is not understood exactly why Wellbutrin works, but it is believed to have something to do with increasing the abundance of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. These are thought to play a role in the body’s stress response and ability to experience pleasure, respectively.

Conditions Treated

Wellbutrin and Prozac are used to treat some of the same mental health conditions, though there are many disorders that one can treat but not the other.

Depression & Mood Disorders

Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. It is most commonly marked by feelings of sadness, loss of pleasure, and irritability. 

Both Wellbutrin and Prozac are approved by the FDA for treatment of this condition.

Wellbutrin is also approved to treat depression associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Prozac, on the other hand, is often prescribed off-label for SAD, meaning that it is not approved by the FDA for that specific application, but is often prescribed by doctors anyway because of its effectiveness in treatment.

Anxiety Disorders

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental health condition most commonly marked by persistent worry or fear. 

Prozac is approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder. Wellbutrin can be prescribed off-label for treating GAD.

Prozac is also approved to treat other anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa. Additionally, Prozac can be used to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Wellbutrin cannot be prescribed for the treatment of any of these conditions.

Other Disorders

Both Prozac and Wellbutrin can be used off-label for alleviating the symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Effectiveness

It’s important to remember that everyone’s body works differently, and some antidepressants that aren’t effective for some might be effective for others. It may take some trial and error, paired with some patience, before you find the perfect fit.

One review found that Wellbutrin may be more effective than other types of antidepressants because it seems to produce fewer side effects compared to other SSRIs.

Another study found that Prozac and Wellbutrin are similar in effectiveness for treating depression. Neither produce severe side effects and both effectively relieve symptoms of depression.

Finally, Prozac is able to treat more mental health conditions when compared to Wellbutrin, which is really only approved for depressive disorders. For that reason, Prozac might be more effective for people who have multiple conditions.

Side Effects

When looking at side effects, both Prozac and Wellbutrin tend to be fairly similar. However, the main difference is that Wellbutrin is not associated with any change in sex drive, whereas Prozac and many other antidepressants tend to affect libido.

Wellbutrin (Bupropion)

The most common side effects of Wellbutrin include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Muscle aches
  • Weight loss

Prozac (Fluoxetine)

The most common side effects associated with Prozac are:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Decreased libido
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Weight changes

Drug Interactions

Neither Prozac nor Wellbutrin should be taken with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). This can increase blood pressure as well as increasing the risk of developing serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition caused by too much serotonin circulating in the body at once. Additionally, you should not take either medication within 14 days of stopping MAOIs.

Anti-inflammatory medications or warfarin should also be avoided when taking Prozac, as it can increase the risk of bleeding. 

With Wellbutrin, you should not take dopaminergic drugs, such as amantadine, as this might increase the risk of adverse side effects like dizziness or tremors.

As a rule of thumb, you should consult your doctor before starting new medications or supplements while taking either Wellbutrin or Prozac. 

In Conclusion

Prozac (Fluoxetine) and Wellbutrin (Bupropion) are both equally effective medications for treating major depressive disorder. 

Prozac is an SSRI medication, whereas Wellbutrin belongs to a class known as aminoketones.

Prozac is approved to treat a wider range of conditions, including anxiety disorders such as OCD, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.

Both medications come with side effects. However, Wellbutrin is not associated with sexual dysfunction or loss of libido like Prozac. Some studies have found Wellbutrin to have fewer side effects in general.

Finally, when taking either Prozac or Wellbutrin, it is important to stay away from MAOIs. Additionally, dopaminergic medications should be avoided with Wellbutrin, as should serotonin-affecting medications with Prozac.

If you’re ready to work with a doctor to find the right treatment for you, YANA can help. 

YANA is an online mental health clinic that matches you with a doctor who can develop a treatment plan just for you, which may include medication if necessary. If prescribed, the medication will be delivered right to your door, quickly and discreetly. 

It’s affordable, accessible, and quality mental healthcare on your terms. 

Click here and get started with YANA today

Sources:

Serotonin | Hormone Health Network

Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (NDRIs) | American Addiction Centers

Bupropion: a systematic review and meta-analysis of effectiveness as an antidepressant | SAGE Journals