Cymbalta vs Effexor: Differences and Side Effects

Effexor and Cymbalta are antidepressants used for the treatment of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Although both medications are FDA-approved, Effexor and Cymbalta have differences in uses, dosage, and possible side effects.

Share This Post

Approximately 16 million American adults are living with major depression and around 7 million American adults experience generalized anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 

With so many people experiencing these and other mental health conditions, prescription medications have become an effective part of treatment.

Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Effexor (venlafaxine HCl) are two prescription drugs that can be used for the treatment of depression and anxiety. 

Although the drugs are very similar in many ways, there are also a number of important differences and side effects to consider when comparing Cymbalta vs. Effexor. 

Drug Class

Effexor and Cymbalta both belong to a class of drugs called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

These drugs help to stabilize mood in those with depression.

They work by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain called serotonin and norepinephrine.

Other SNRIs include desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) and milnacipran (Savella). 

They differ from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac or Oxactin), escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Seroxat), as SSRIs only block serotonin reuptake. 

A third drug class, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are also used to treat depression, and they remove serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine from the brain. There are also tricyclic antidepressants like nortriptyline (Pamelor) and imipramine (Tofranil).

Conditions Treated

Major Depressive Disorder

Cymbalta and Effexor are both used for treating major depressive disorder.

Also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder is characterized by intense sadness that has occurred for a period of at least two weeks. 

Clinical depression is classified as a mental health disorder. Symptoms of depression can substantially impact a person’s quality of life.

Many patients with clinical depression also find that they lose interest in activities that they previously enjoyed or struggle to complete daily tasks, such as cleaning or working. It is also common for patients to have suicidal thoughts and tendencies. 

Symptoms of major depressive disorder include:

  • Feeling sad or empty
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Sleeping and eating more or less than usual
  • Lost of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Low energy levels
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
YouTube player

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Cymbalta and Effexor are also both approved for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD.

People with generalized anxiety disorder experience a constant feeling of anxiety that lasts for at least six months and interferes with a person’s daily activities and quality of life. 

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can include restlessness, difficulty concentrating, persistent worrying, difficulty falling asleep, nervousness, sweating, and nausea. 

Other Conditions

In addition to major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, Cymbalta is also used for the treatment of fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy.  

Fibromyalgia is a chronic medical condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain with no obvious cause, injury, or illness.

Everyone with fibromyalgia experiences symptoms of fibromyalgia differently, but it is common for patients to experience symptoms that include fatigue, memory issues, tension headaches, sleep problems, and mood changes. 

Patients with diabetes whose bodies are unable to manage their blood sugar levels may experience diabetic neuropathy.

People with diabetic neuropathy experience nerve pain that can occur throughout the body, but it is most often felt in the legs and feet.

Symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy include tingling and numbness in the legs and feet, neuropathic pain, cramps, stomach pain, weakness, and increased sensitivity to touch. 

Cymbalta can also be used to treat depressive episodes in those suffering from bipolar disorder.

Panic Disorder

In addition to major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, Effexor is also used to treat panic disorder.

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurrent panic attacks, which can suddenly manifest as intense fear and anxiety without an obvious cause. 

People who have panic attacks may feel like they are having a heart attack. While many people will experience one or two panic attacks over the course of their lifetime, people with panic disorder experience panic attacks repeatedly. 

Symptoms of panic attacks include: 

  • Rapid, pounding heart rate
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feeling detached from reality
  • Nausea
  • Sense of impending doom or danger
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Headache
  • Fear of loss of control 
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Hot flashes
  • Abdominal cramping

Side Effects

Effexor and Cymbalta may cause similar side effects. However, Effexor is known to cause more problems with sexual dysfunction than Cymbalta.

However, everyone reacts to medications differently, so some patients may find that they feel better taking Cymbalta than Effexor and vice versa.


Common side effects of Effexor include:

  • Fatigue
  • Unusual dreams
  • Sexual problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Yawning
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sweating
  • Headache

Less common but potentially serious side effects of Effexor include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Manic/hypomanic episodes
  • Low sodium levels
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Lung disease and pneumonia
  • Allergic reactions


Possible side effects associated with Cymbalta generally fall into two categories: common and less common. Common side effects associated with Cymbalta include:

  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Less common adverse effects that may occur in long-term users of Cymbalta include:

  • Liver problems
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • Manic/hypomanic episodes
  • Glaucoma
  • Seizures
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Low sodium levels

If you experience any of these side effects, or side effects persist or worsen, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider.

This may not be a complete list of side effects. Upon discontinuation of Cymbalta or Effexor, you may find yourself suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

Additionally, you should ask your prescribing doctor if Cymbalta or Effexor may have negative drug interactions with any of your current medications.

Generic for Cymbalta | Hims
9.5/10Our Score

Getting psychiatric care for anxiety and depression has never been simpler.

Consult with a licensed healthcare provider to determine whether a medication like sertraline could be right for you.

Starting at $49/mo.

Generic for Cymbalta | Hers
9.5/10Our Score

Getting psychiatric care for anxiety and depression has never been more convenient.

Consult with a healthcare provider through our platform to determine whether a medication like fluoxetine could be right for you.

Starting at $49/mo


Effexor and Cymbalta have both been shown to be effective antidepressants; however, Effexor may be a preferred option for the short-term treatment of major depressive disorder. 

There are no long-term differences in the effectiveness of Effexor and Cymbalta for the treatment of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder; in fact, both medications are similar in efficacy and tolerability. Some patients may find that one medication works better than the other based on their individual response to the medication.

No matter which medication your doctor prescribes, both Effexor and Cymbalta may take up to several weeks to start working. It usually takes around 2 to 6 weeks for an SNRI to start producing maximum benefits.


Cymbalta and Effexor are both effective treatment options for patients experiencing major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. 

Patients who need a short term-treatment option may find that Effexor is more effective in helping manage their symptoms, and Effexor comes in an extended-release form called Effexor XR, another treatment option to consider. However, Effexor may cause more sexual side effects than Cymbalta.  

Both medications are available in both generic and brand-name forms by prescription and are usually covered by commercial health insurance in their generic form. 

Regardless of which medication and which dosing your doctor prescribes, you can save on the cost of your prescription with a pharmacy discount card from

References, Studies and Sources:

We are committed to providing our readers with only trusted resources and science-based studies with regards to medication and health information. 

Disclaimer: This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. If you suspect medical problems or need medical help or advice, please talk with your healthcare professional.

Share This Post Discount Club

Get Started for $1.

  • Cheapest cash pay option at your retail pharmacy
  • 1,000s of drugs below $10.00 that can beat your co-pay
  • Start for $1 for your first month. Cancel anytime. 
  • Tell us your meds, we tell you the cheapest options.

Popular Destinations

Recent Articles

trusted pharmacists giving patient information

Does Taking Effexor Cause Weight Gain?

Taking Effexor may cause weight gain in some patients. Weight gain is a common side effect of Effexor and other antidepressant medications, and more than half of patients on newer classes of antidepressants report experiencing weight gain.

Read More »

Cerebral Review: Online Depression & Anxiety Treatment

Today, we’re deep diving with a Cerebral review to give you some insider info to help you narrow down your choices.

We review and include products we think are useful for our community. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a commission. For more info, please read our ad policy, content principles and vetting policy.

Read More »

Share On:

More To Explore

Does Taking Effexor Cause Weight Gain?

Taking Effexor may cause weight gain in some patients. Weight gain is a common side effect of Effexor and other antidepressant medications, and more

How Long Does Lexapro Take To Work?

If you are considering taking Lexapro for your depression or anxiety, you might be wondering how long it takes to work.

Zoloft and Weight Loss: Everything You Need To Know

When it comes to Zoloft and weight loss, here’s everything you need to know.

Cerebral Review: Online Depression & Anxiety Treatment

Today, we’re deep diving with a Cerebral review to give you some insider info to help you narrow down your choices.

We review and include

What are the signs of Depression?

In this article, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of depression as well as some treatment options for this condition.

Can You Use Gabapentin For Anxiety?

While Neurontin is the most common brand name for gabapentin, other forms (such as Horizant and Gralise) may be prescribed depending on the specific

What is Zoloft?

If you have been recently diagnosed with depression and are given Zoloft, you may want to know how the medication works, what common side

What is Venlafaxine HCL ER?

The prescription drug belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor antidepressants (SNRIs), which are commonly used to treat mental

Using Prozac With Alcohol: What Are the Risks?

Prozac can be used to treat many different mental health conditions, is associated with a relatively low risk of side effects, and causes the

How Long Does Clonazepam Stay in Your System?

This fast-acting medication is known for being effective at panic attacks, but how long does clonazepam stay in your system?

What is Sertraline and What are the Side Effects?

Sertraline is the generic form of Zoloft, a medication that belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs like

Turn On, Tune In, and…. Heal Your Brain? Psychedelics Return as Potential Therapy for Mental Health Disorders

Before they fell out of favor over half a century ago, psychedelic drugs, like psilocybin and LSD, were studied for various psychiatric diseases such

How Long Does Alprazolam Stay in Your System?

Alprazolam is a fast-acting medication, but exactly how long alprazolam stays in your body varies tremendously based on the form of the medication taken,

Paxil vs Zoloft: Differences, Similarities and Which is Better

When it comes to Paxil vs. Zoloft, which is better?

A Supplement for Stress? The Science Behind Adaptogens

Stress is part of all our lives. Adaptogens are a group of herbal supplements studied throughout history as a way to improve the body’s

Does Buspirone Cause Weight Gain?

Many antidepressants can cause weight gain as a side effect. Buspirone may cause an altered appetite as a side effect, which can lead to

Duloxetine Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

Duloxetine withdrawal is very common and well documented, affecting nearly half of all patients. Common withdrawal symptoms include dizziness, headaches, and nausea, and symptoms

Cymbalta vs. Prozac: Comparison Guide

Cymbalta and Prozac are commonly prescribed medications to treat mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder. The medications are similarly effective, although one

How Long Does Ativan Stay in Your System?

If you use Ativan to manage your health but are curious about how long Ativan lasts in your system, we have all the information

Why is Mental Health Important?

As the saying goes, “There is no health without mental health,” but why is mental health so important? The reality is that although we

What is BuSpar? Uses, Costs, Benefits, and Doses

If you’re one of 40 million American adults suffering from an anxiety disorder or experiencing symptoms of anxiety, you might think that your battle

What are Long-Acting Injectable Antipsychotics? 

Long-acting injectable (LAI) antipsychotics have been shown to prevent psychosis relapse in patients with schizophrenia. To combat poor medication adherence, LAIs are a great

Celexa vs Lexapro: Which is Better For Depression?

Both are regarded as equally effective drugs for treating depression. Find out the core difference between Celexa vs. Lexpro now!

What is Ativan? Uses, Costs, Benefits, Doses

More than 40 million adults in the United States are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental illness in the

Lexapro Overdose: Signs, Symptoms, and Precautions

We’ve put together a list of the signs and symptoms to look out for when it comes to Lexapro overdose and some of the

Panic Attacks: The Story of an Overpowering Fear

Panic attacks are when you experience a sudden feeling of intense fear with no apparent threat or danger.  This triggers a "fight or flight"

Using Lorazepam with Alcohol: What Are the Risks?

Using lorazepam with alcohol is incredibly dangerous but can be a common occurrence, and is associated with potentially life-threatening side effects, which are outlined

Using Citalopram with Alcohol: What Are the Risks?

Mixing antidepressants with alcohol is always potentially dangerous, but using citalopram with alcohol is particularly unsafe due to the high potential for life-threatening side

Brightside Health Review: Is This Depression & Anxiety Care Useful?

Brightside is an online mental healthcare company that provides treatment services for a range of issues related to anxiety and depression. These conditions include

SonderMind Reviews: Pros & Cons of Their Therapy Services

SonderMind is a virtual mental health service that makes therapy and psychiatry more accessible. Find out if the pros outweigh the cons.

We review and