Does Wellbutrin help with dysthymia? (+5 alternatives)

In this brief article, we will answer the question ” Does Wellbutrin help with dysthymia? “. Moreover, we will discuss the effects of Wellbutrin on dysthymia and the potential benefits and risks that can result from this treatment.


Does Wellbutrin help with dysthymia?

Yes, Wellbutrin can help with dysthymia. Wellbutrin is considered to be one of the first-line treatments for dysthymia. Wellbutrin is an effective and safe medication to treat depressive symptoms and other mood disorders.

Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant that works by inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. This leads to an increase in these two neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Wellbutrin can be used to treat nicotine withdrawal symptoms, bipolar depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dysthymic disorder.

Dysthymia is a persistent depression that lasts for 2 or more years. Dysthymia is also defined as a chronic and milder form of depression. Symptoms of dysthymia include sleep disturbances, appetite changes, poor concentration, low energy, low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness. (1)

Wellbutrin aims to restore balance in brain chemistry and alleviate the persistent low mood associated with this form of depression.


What are the effects of Wellbutrin on dysthymia?

Wellbutrin enhances the activity of norepinephrine and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are associated with mood regulation and pleasure. Wellbutrin can help alleviate depressive symptoms by improving mood and reducing persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness associated with dysthymia. 

Wellbutrin presents a unique pharmacological approach to treating dysthymia. That’s because Wellbutrin targets a broader spectrum of neurotransmitters. Additionally, Wellbutrin provides a gradual improvement in daily functioning, relationships and overall well-being. (2)

Wellbutrin is effective in addressing different symptoms of dysthymia as Wellbutrin targets the dopaminergic and noradrenergic systems. Thus, Wellbutrin’s special mechanism of action aligns with addressing the chronic nature of dysthymia.

However, some individuals may find relief and improvement when using Wellbutrin while others may not find it suitable. Individuals must consult with a healthcare professional to assess factors such as medical history, potential drug interactions and individual response to medications.


What does the research suggest?

Numerous studies have explored the efficacy of Wellbutrin in treating dysthymia. There is evidence suggesting that Wellbutrin can be particularly beneficial for individuals non-responsive to other traditional antidepressants. 

Clinical trials show the effectiveness of Wellbutrin sustained-release (SR) in adults with dysthymia. In one clinical trial, eight individuals experienced side effects such as restlessness, gastrointestinal issues, decreased appetite, headache and insomnia. Wellbutrin treatment yielded positive results in 71.4%, with no instances of treatment discontinuation due to side effects. (3,4)

This result shows the high efficacy and tolerability of Wellbutrin in treating dysthymia. However, individuals with a history of alcohol abuse or substance abuse are less likely to respond to Wellbutrin. (4)


What are the potential risks of Wellbutrin in treating dysthymia?

Wellbutrin has therapeutic benefits in treating dysthymia. However, individual responses to Wellbutrin vary widely. Like other medications, Wellbutrin has potential risks as well. Wellbutrin’s potential risks in treating dysthymia include: 

  • Risk of Seizure: Wellbutrin is associated with an increased risk of seizures, especially at higher doses.


  • Gradual Onset: The therapeutic effects of Wellbutrin may take several weeks to be realized. This slow onset of action requires patience and careful monitoring.


  • Individual Variability: Responses to Wellbutrin can vary widely among individuals. Some may find it highly effective, while others may not experience the desired relief.


  • Interaction with other medications: Wellbutrin may interact with other medications and cause potential complications.


  • Not suitable for everyone: Individuals with pre-existing conditions such as seizures and eating disorders may need an alternative treatment. (2)


  • Cardiovascular effects: There are potential cardiovascular risks associated with Wellbutrin use, especially for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.


  • Long-term safety: Your healthcare provider should assess the impact of Wellbutrin on its long-term use in treating dysthymia.


What are other medications available for treating dysthymia? 

Several medications can be used to treat dysthymia, and the choice often depends on individual factors and the preferences of the healthcare providers. Common classes of medication include: 

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs include fluoxetine, sertraline and citalopram. They are commonly prescribed for depressive disorders including dysthymia.


  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs include venlafaxine and duloxetine. They can be sometimes considered for dysthymia.


  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs): Amitriptyline and nortriptyline belong to this class. TCAs can be considered when other options are not effective. 


  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors( MAOIs): MAOIs including phenelzine and tranylcypromine are usually considered to be the last choice treatment. This is due to their common dietary and drug interactions.  (5,6)

How does psychotherapy complement Wellbutrin in treating dysthymia?

A complementary approach of psychotherapy and medication appears to be the best treatment for dysthymia. Cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic and insight-oriented psychotherapy are the available types of psychotherapy to help individuals with dysthymia.

Psychotherapy allows individuals to explore the root causes of their dysthymia beyond the biochemical aspects targeted by medication. Psychotherapy aims to address underlying issues by delving into past experiences, interpersonal relationships and coping mechanisms to treat persistent depressive symptoms.

Psychotherapy enhances the treatment outcomes for dysthymia. Combining psychotherapy and Wellbutrin provides a dual approach that targets different aspects of dysthymia. While Wellbutrin addresses the neurochemical activity, psychotherapy provides a platform for self-reflection, emotional support and skill-building.(7)



To sum up, Wellbutrin can help with dysthymia. Wellbutrin has potential benefits in treating dysthymia as well as potential risks. Conjunctive treatment of psychotherapy and Wellbutrin appears to be the best treatment for dysthymia. In my experience as a pharmacist, the decision to use Wellbutrin should be based on a comprehensive assessment of individual health, medical history and treatment goals. 



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Berigan TR. The Many Uses of Bupropion and Bupropion Sustained Release (SR) in Adults. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2002 Feb;4(1):30-32.


Hellerstein DJ, Batchelder S, Kreditor D, Fedak M. Bupropion sustained-release for the treatment of dysthymic disorder: an open-label study. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2001 Jun;21(3):325-9.


Ishizaki J, Mimura M. Dysthymia and apathy: diagnosis and treatment. Depress Res Treat. 2011;2011:893905. doi: 10.1155/2011/893905. Epub 2011 Jun 27.,may%20be%20slightly%20better%20tolerated.


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Ishizaki J, Mimura M. Dysthymia and apathy: diagnosis and treatment. Depress Res Treat. 2011;2011:893905.

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