August 24, 2023

The Difference Between Wellbutrin vs. Lexapro for Depression

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Dr. Priya Chaudhri
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If you are struggling with major depressive disorder, you may welcome a medication that will help relieve your suffering. With thirty different antidepressants available, your doctor will prescribe the one he or she believes will offer the best results.

If your doctor considers Wellbutrin vs. Lexipro for your depression, it is because these drug profiles target your particular type of depression. These drugs are from two different antidepressant classes.

As with any drug, an antidepressant may cause some adverse side effects. For this reason, your doctor will trial a drug, asking you to give it 4-6 weeks. This allows enough time to see not only its effects but also its side effects.

Your doctor may start you on Wellbutrin, and then decide at the six-week mark whether it is working. If it is not providing sufficient relief with minimal adverse effects, he may switch you to Lexapro.

Understanding Depression

Depression is the second most common mental health disorder experienced by Americans, with over 21 million people affected a year. It isn’t fully understood what causes depression, but there are some risk factors cited:

  • Faulty mood regulation, brain chemistry imbalance.
  • Family history of depression.
  • Stressful or traumatic life events.
  • Health conditions, like M.S., cancer, lupus, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and kidney disease.
  • Medication side effects.
  • Co-occurring substance use disorder.

There are nine symptoms listed in the DSM-5 for major depressive disorder (MDD). When five or more symptoms are present for over two weeks, the patient is diagnosed with MDD.

The symptoms of depression may include:

  1. Low mood, sadness, feelings of despair, and hopelessness.
  2. Fatigue
  3. Change in eating habits.
  4. Sleep disorders.
  5. Loss of interest in daily life.
  6. Sudden weight gain or loss.
  7. Sluggish thinking or movements.
  8. Feelings of guilt or shame.
  9. Thoughts of suicide.

About Wellbutrin

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is an NDRI antidepressant that works by increasing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. This is thought to improve mood and relieve depression symptoms.

About Lexapro

Lexapro (escitalopram) is an SSRI antidepressant that works by slowing down the reabsorption of the neurotransmitter called serotonin. This allows the serotonin to have a better chance of connecting with brain cells, which helps reduce the symptoms of depression.

Wellbutrin vs. Lexapro for Treatment of Depression

While both these drugs are prescribed for the treatment of depression, they do differ somewhat. For instance, Wellbutrin has been found to be useful for treating seasonal affective disorder and smoking cessation. Lexapro is helpful for the treatment of anxiety. This demonstrates the different actions these drugs produce in the brain.

In some cases, both drugs are used together for depression treatment, as each works on different neurotransmitters. One study showed that when both drugs are used in tandem there are better results and lower symptom remission rates.

Side Effects Wellbutrin vs. Lexapro

The side effects of Wellbutrin vs. Lexapro differ somewhat, although some adverse effects are common between them:

Wellbutrin side effects:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Agitation
  • Stomach pain.
  • Weight loss or weight gain.
  • Tinnitus
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Headache
  • Tremor
  • Reduced libido.

Lexapro side effects:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth.
  • Constipation
  • Anxiety
  • Sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Sinusitis

Black Box Warning for Suicide Risk in Young Adults

Antidepressants are sold with a specific black box warning that pertains to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts among young adults patients. The age range that is cited includes adults between 18-24 years of age.

Lexapro is approved for use in teens, but Wellbutrin is not. For teens taking Lexapro, it is advised that they be closely monitored for any adverse effects.

Treatment Options for Depression

There are various methods and treatment settings for helping someone with depression. These settings include a private practice doctor or psychiatrist, an outpatient program, or residential treatment.

Private Practice. Your private practice doctor or psychiatrist may be able to successfully manage your depression. He or she will prescribe therapy sessions along with a drug, such as either Wellbutrin vs. Lexapro.

Outpatient Treatment. Outpatient programs include intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization. These programs involve a deeper engagement in therapy and other activities several days per week.

Residential Treatment. A residential mental health program offers a much more intensive treatment approach within a private estate setting. Treatment may last for a few weeks to a few months, depending on how severe the depression is. Depression treatment includes:

  • Private talk therapy sessions. A licensed psychotherapist will guide you toward forming more positive thought patterns using CBT.
  • Group therapy sessions. Small group meetings are designed for peers to share their own feelings and challenges while living with depression.
  • Family sessions. Family therapy offers guidance to close family members who learn how to be supportive as you recover from depression.
  • Medication. A drug designed to manage symptoms of depression is often helpful.
  • Holistic. While in treatment, you will learn holistic techniques to help you better manage your emotional state.

Managing Depression Without Antidepressant Drug Therapy

Not everyone benefits from drugs like Wellbutrin vs. Lexapro, or other antidepressants. These drugs do help about 50% of patients, but for those who do not benefit, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Increase physical activity. Exercise, especially outdoor activities, increases your endorphin production as well as the neurotransmitters, which improve mood.
  2. Hypnotherapy or guided meditation. These techniques help navigate you towards more positive, affirming thoughts.
  3. TMS. This is a brain stimulation technology that helps to restore proper neural activity levels in the left prefrontal cortex.
  4. Aromatherapy. Essential oils, such as bergamot, ylang-ylang, orange, and lavender can help reduce depression symptoms.
  5. Reduce social media. Studies show that too much time on social media is harmful to mental health, and may contribute to feelings of depression.

If you struggle with depression and wonder about antidepressants like Wellbutrin vs. Lexapro, allow a professional to guide you.

Elevation Behavioral Health Comprehensive Depression Treatment

Elevation Behavioral Health provides residential mental health care in a private luxury setting. If you are seeking sustained relief from depression symptoms, please reach out to us today at (888) 561-0868.

Our team of experts is here to help you.