Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
The antidepressant known as bupropion (Wellbutrin) may not be the best antidepressant for everyone. But for people experiencing sexual side effects from another antidepressant, it can be a (sex) lifesaver.
Bupropion is prescribed for everything from depression to smoking cessation under FDA approval. This medication is also frequently used to treat ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), obesity and sexual dysfunction disorder.
And if you’ve been taking an SSRI and lost your mojo recently, it may be particularly useful.
Antidepressants aren’t known for treating sexual dysfunction — in fact, some of the most popular antidepressants today can actually cause negative sexual side effects. So if you’re on antidepressants and suffering from sexual dysfunction, Wellbutrin (or its generic equivalent) could offer the relief you need.
Below, we’ll explain how Wellbutrin works, whether it can treat sexual dysfunction and what other sexual side effects you may need to worry about. We’ll also touch on some alternatives for treating low libido and erectile dysfunction (ED) so you can get back on top of your game regardless of what’s keeping you down.
Wellbutrin was approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) in 1985 for the treatment of depression. It does this by targeting receptors for the neurotransmitters in the brain.
NDRIs like Wellbutrin prevent your brain from reabsorbing excess volumes of norepinephrine and dopamine. As a result, your brain can access a larger surplus of these neurotransmitters later on, when it actually needs them.
These medications are called norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (or NDRIs).
These days, Wellbutrin is employed to treat various conditions, including ADHD, bipolar-related depression, anxiety, obesity and weight gain. It can also help with low sexual desire and erectile dysfunction in people experiencing these conditions as side effects of antidepressant treatment.
In this off-label capacity, bupropion is effective in a very specific modality. It works as a treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, specifically SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction.
SSRIs (short for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most commonly and safely prescribed medications for depression and anxiety disorders today. You may know names like Prozac, citalopram, sertraline and fluoxetine as popular mental health medications.
And they’re not alone. Many forms of antidepressants increase a user’s risk of sexual side effects, including sexual dysfunction in its many forms. Bupropion is one of the few antidepressants that don’t cause these common side effects.
Wellbutrin isn’t without its own side effects, though. Compared to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, its side effects could be considered more significant.
These days, this is why it’s primarily used when you just can’t stand the side effects from other medications — rather than as a first-line treatment.
Bupropion isn’t just less of a problem for sexual functioning than other antidepressants. Some limited studies have shown that the side effects of bupropion may include increased libido.
Scientists aren’t really sure how or why this happens, but there are reports of spontaneous ejaculation and shortened time to ejaculation (aka premature ejaculation or PE).
The side effects of bupropion are significant. They can include constipation, weight loss, dry mouth, nausea, headache, ringing in the ears, sore throat, loss of appetite, stomach pain, vomiting, uncontrollable shaking in your extremities and frequent urination. This medication can even affect your sense of taste.
In some cases, you may experience serious side effects when taking bupropion. These may include irrational fears, seizures, hallucinations, muscle and joint pain, confusion or a rapid heartbeat, to name a few.
Seek medical attention ASAP if you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms. Also, contact a healthcare professional if you have trouble swallowing, a fever, rash, blisters, swelling or hives when taking bupropion.
Check our guide to Wellbutrin side effects for more insight.
Drug-induced sexual dysfunction can come in several forms. But for many men, the reality of taking antidepressants is that sexual activity often takes a hit due to erectile dysfunction.
Bupropion may help, but treatment for these issues might call for more than a new medication — and it might involve extra work on your part.
The most effective ED treatments are therapy for psychological ED, prescription medication and lifestyle changes. Here’s what to know.
While SSRIs may be the culprit in your case, the psychological causes of ED can be significant. This may include performance anxiety, confidence issues and other self-esteem problems that make intimacy difficult.
Previous sexual traumas might also play a part. As such, talking to a therapist about ongoing ED issues is crucial, whether they’re medication-induced or not.
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Cialis helps you get and keep stronger erections with a daily or as-needed pill.
Medication-induced ED is one of the cases in which you can fight fire with fire. Prescription medications like Cialis® (tadalafil) and Viagra® (sildenafil) can help correct hormonal imbalances that might be causing ED. This includes regulating an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) and keeping you hard for longer.
Medications for ED include:
Sildenafil (generic for Viagra)
Tadalafil (generic for Cialis)
Stendra (generic for Avanafil)
Interested in alternative delivery methods for PDE-5 inhibitors? Check out our chewable ED meds hard mints.
This might be obvious in this day and age, but your overall health might play a role in your erectile health. If you’re having ED issues, a healthcare professional may suggest lifestyle changes, like smoking or drinking less, avoiding recreational drugs, eating a better diet, improving your exercise habits and maybe even getting a good night’s rest.
Wellbutrin isn’t an automatic libido enhancer, and there’s no guarantee you’ll have better erections or an improved sex drive if you switch to it from another antidepressant.
But you should absolutely talk to a healthcare professional about it in some circumstances:
If you’re on antidepressant medication and are experiencing sexual dysfunction, it’s time to talk to a healthcare provider.
We know navigating medications can be confusing, but skip the gas station pills and weird herbal supplements and just talk to your healthcare provider. Getting the right support, advice and medications will be a life-changer.
Other erectile dysfunction treatments might be better suited for your needs, or they may work alongside Wellbutrin.
If you have other sexual health issues, we can help you find what you need. Our online psychiatry platform is a great place to check out therapy. We can also help you explore premature ejaculation treatment if you’re getting it up just fine but want to last a little longer.
Whether you’re switching off an SSRI or not, get professional support today. It’ll lift your spirits — among other things.