Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or think you may be experiencing it, medications can be an effective part of your treatment plan.
Wellbutrin is a medication that is most often used to treat depression. But in some cases, doctors may prescribe Wellbutrin to treat symptoms of anxiety. This is called an ‘off-label’ use, meaning the FDA has not approved its use for anxiety but some doctors use it for this purpose. Before starting any medication, your doctor should go over the benefits and risks to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.
Curious about Wellbutrin and how it works for the treatment of anxiety? We turned to our staff of expert psychiatrists for answers.
In this article, we’ll talk about how Wellbutrin works for treating anxiety, its side effects, how to take it, and other things to consider before starting this medication.
Wellbutrin is a brand name for the generic medication buproprion. Buproprion is a type of antidepressant medication called an aminoketone, also known as an “atypical” antidepressant, because it works slightly differently than other types of antidepressants like SNRIs and SSRIs.
Wellbutrin is FDA-approved to treat depression (major depressive disorder) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and is sometimes used off-label to treat ADHD, depressive episodes in people with bipolar disorder, and anxiety symptoms.
It works by increasing the level of certain chemicals (dopamine and norepinephrine) in the brain that help regulate your mood. Dopamine and norepinephrine are two important neurotransmitters that are often dysregulated in people with certain mental health conditions. Buproprion helps balance these neurotransmitters and reduce symptoms of depression.
There is limited research on the effectiveness of bupropion for anxiety disorders but one 2008 pilot study found promising results and a recent 2023 review concluded that bupropion may be a good option for people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who don’t respond to other medications like SSRIs.
Wellbutrin may be favored over certain medications because, while it does come with side effects, the side effects don’t include fatigue or weight gain.
There is a long-held belief that medications like Wellbutrin may actually make anxiety symptoms worse because they increase levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine (noradrenaline) which is increased during periods of anxiety. A 2023 study found this not to be true, showing that there was no increase in anxiety symptoms in people who took bupropion compared to those who took other types of antidepressants. This study also found that bupropion helped reduce anxiety symptoms in those with major depressive disorder (MDD).
For patients with depression, Wellbutrin may take up to 4 weeks to take full effect. It is likely to work in a similar time frame for people using it for anxiety, but the evidence is limited. Your doctor will help you come up with a plan to track and evaluate how effective Wellbutrin might be for you. Your doctor may suggest tracking your symptoms on a weekly or daily basis to help evaluate how well the medication is working.
If you find the medication is not managing your symptoms as you expected, it is still important to continue to take the medication as directed by your doctor. Stopping it abruptly can be dangerous and lead to harmful side effects.
As with any medication, Wellbutrin comes with side effects. The thought of experiencing side effects can be scary but your doctor will work with you to help you reduce your risk. Most of the side effects are mild and/or rare and tend to go away as your body adjusts to the medication.
Some common side effects of Wellbutrin to look out for include:
If you experience any of these side effects while taking Wellbutrin, be sure to let your doctor know. They may want to adjust your medication.
In addition to mild side effects, some people may experience more serious side effects while taking Wellbutrin. These side effects are rare but are important to be aware of.
Serious side effects include:
If you experience any of the symptoms above, give your doctor or a healthcare professional a call right away or get emergency medical treatment.
There are a few different types of Wellbutrin, including Wellbutrin SR (slow-release) and Wellbutrin XL (extended-release). The dose, how often you take the medication, and other instructions may vary based on the type of Wellbutrin you have been prescribed. Be sure to follow the instructions given by your prescribing doctor and pharmacist. If you aren’t sure how to take the medication—don't be afraid to ask.
Before you take your prescription home, make sure you know how to take it, the side effects to look out for, what to do if you have side effects, and the potential benefits of the medication.
Although you will always need a prescription before you start taking Wellbutrin, you may or may not be using your insurance to pay for it. The cost of Wellbutrin will depend on your dose, the pharmacy you use, and the details of your insurance plan. If you are paying out of pocket for your medication and want to learn more about how much it will cost, give your pharmacy a call directly.
When it comes to treating anxiety, Wellbutrin is just one option. Your treatment plan may also include therapy, a different type of medication, or both. Other medications used to treat anxiety include antidepressants like SSRIs and SNRIs, beta-blockers, and benzodiazepines.
To learn more about medications used to treat anxiety check out: SSRI and SNRI: How They Work & Key Differences.
Wellbutrin is a type of antidepressant that is FDA-approved to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). In some cases, it may also be used to treat anxiety. This is considered an off-label use, meaning the FDA has not approved it for this purpose due to limited research. Before starting a medication, your doctor or healthcare provider should discuss the benefits and risks and explain the level of evidence supporting its potential benefits.
Anxiety is complex—and treatment for anxiety should be highly personalized. Psychiatrists are experts in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. At Talkiatry, you can see a psychiatrist that takes your insurance all from the comfort of home. They will work with you to create a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan that may include medications, talk therapy, or a combination.
Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 60 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with anxiety, depression, trauma, ADHD, and more. Get started with a short online assessment.
The information in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.
Dr. Satveet Khela is a board certified physician specializing in adult psychiatry. She has been practicing since 2021.
In addition to focusing on medication management, Dr. Khela's practice also prioritizes a whole person approach, incorporating aspects of nutrition, lifestyle, mindfulness, and supportive or brief cognitive behavioral therapy into the treatment plan. Occasionally, Dr. Khela may believe that additional therapy is also needed and ask that you see a separate therapist to provide the best outcome.
Dr. Khela received her undergraduate degree from University of California Berkeley and her medical degree from A.T. Still University. She completed her residency at University of California San Francisco Fresno, where she served as chief resident in her final year. After completing her training, Dr. Khela worked with medically ill patient's with co-morbid psychiatric illnesses. Throughout her career, Dr. Khela has worked with a diverse set of patient in various stages of their lives.
Dr. Khela focuses on treating patients with anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar, OCD, and other mental health issues. She believes in empowering her patients to be active players in their treatment plans to facilitate the best care possible.