Wellbutrin for anxiety

Wellbutrin and Anxiety: What Is the Link?

Wellbutrin for anxiety
Medical Disclaimer
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient's unique health circumstances and needs.

The relentless grip of anxiety can make even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable, casting a shadow over every aspect of life. While anxiety disorders can be deeply disruptive and debilitating, it is possible to get rid of anxious feelings using tested treatment options. One such option is Wellbutrin—a medication that has emerged as an alternative in the realm of anxiety treatment.

Traditionally recognized as an antidepressant, Wellbutrin has quietly garnered attention for its effects on anxiety. But what exactly is the link between Wellbutrin and anxiety? How does this medication exert its therapeutic effects, and what makes it different from other treatment options? Let’s explore the answers in this article.

Consult with a healthcare professional to know what anxiety medication can help you.

How Does Wellbutrin Function?

Wellbutrin, also known by its generic name bupropion, is a medication FDA-approved to treat depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and smoking cessation. In addition to these uses, bupropion is also prescribed off-label for several other conditions, including anxiety associated with depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [1*] , antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction [2*] , and obesity [3*] .

Wellbutrin belongs to a class of drugs known as aminoketones. It primarily acts as an antidepressant by influencing the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly dopamine and norepinephrine. These are two key chemicals involved in regulating mood, increasing energy levels, boosting motivation and concentration, and reducing feelings of sadness or hopelessness. By modulating the levels of these neurotransmitters, Wellbutrin helps restore the balance and function of the brain circuits to help treat depression.

Additionally, Wellbutrin has been found to have a mild inhibitory effect [4*] on the serotonin reuptake. Serotonin is another neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation. However, its action on serotonin is relatively weaker compared to its effects on dopamine and norepinephrine. This makes Wellbutrin unique among antidepressants, as most others primarily target serotonin reuptake.

Is There a Connection Between Wellbutrin and Anxiety?

The impact of Wellbutrin on anxiety can be influenced by several factors, such as individual response to the medication, general health, type of anxiety disorder, etc. Since Wellbutrin affects the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, it can have an impact on anxiety symptoms. By modulating these neurotransmitters, Wellbutrin may have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects [5*] for some individuals, while for others, it may potentially exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

Does Bupropion Treat Anxiety?

Wellbutrin is primarily prescribed as an antidepressant rather than a dedicated treatment for anxiety disorders. While it is not FDA-approved for anxiety treatment, some individuals with anxiety disorders may experience a reduction in their symptoms when taking bupropion. It can serve as the second-line treatment for some patients based on their medical history and individual response.

Can Wellbutrin Induce Anxiety?

There is a complex relationship between Wellbutrin (bupropion) and anxiety: the medication can either relieve or increase it. If you are concerned about the impact of Wellbutrin on your anxiety symptoms or if you are considering using Wellbutrin specifically for anxiety, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional. They can evaluate your specific situation and discuss potential treatment options. They can prescribe Wellbutrin if it is the most appropriate course of action based on your individual needs.

Wellbutrin for generalized anxiety disorder

Benefits of Taking Bupropion

Different patients can benefit from Wellbutrin in different ways, depending on their condition and response to medication. The most common effects and potential advantages are the following:

  1. Dopaminergic effects. Increased dopamine levels in the brain (as a result of Wellbutrin use) can positively impact motivation, focus, and pleasure. Consequently, it may help individuals increase motivation, improve interest in different activities, and enhance concentration.
  2. Adjunctive effect. By targeting and improving depressive symptoms, Wellbutrin can have a positive impact on overall mood in people with depression-related anxiety symptoms.
  3. Minimal sedation. Wellbutrin is believed to have a lower sedative effect [6*] compared to some other antidepressants. Excessive sedation can potentially exacerbate feelings of fatigue or cognitive fog, which are common symptoms of anxiety. Due to its effects, Wellbutrin may help relieve anxiety symptoms without causing additional drowsiness or mental cloudiness.
  4. Lack of significant weight gain. Wellbutrin is less associated with weight gain compared to other antidepressants. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who are worried about weight-related issues and want to avoid additional weight gain while managing their anxiety symptoms.

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5 Misconceptions About Wellbutrin

1. Wellbutrin is used only for treating depression.
One common misconception is that Wellbutrin is solely intended for the treatment of depression. While it is primarily used as an antidepressant, Wellbutrin has additional FDA-approved indications. It can help to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and is also used as a smoking cessation aid. Furthermore, it may be prescribed off-label for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.

2. Wellbutrin is a sedative.
Another misconception is that Wellbutrin has a sedative effect. In reality, Wellbutrin is known for its relatively lower sedative properties compared to some other antidepressant medications. It is often favored for individuals who prefer a medication that doesn’t cause excessive drowsiness or interfere with daily activities.

3. Wellbutrin causes weight gain.
Weight gain is a common concern for individuals taking psychiatric medications, but the belief that Wellbutrin causes significant weight gain is a misconception. Compared to some other antidepressants, Wellbutrin is considered to have a lower risk of weight gain. While individual responses to medications can vary, studies suggest that Wellbutrin is less likely to cause significant weight gain or may even lead to weight loss in some cases.

4. Wellbutrin is addictive.
Wellbutrin is not considered an addictive medication. It does not belong to the class of drugs known as controlled substances, such as benzodiazepines or opioids, which are associated with a higher risk of dependence and addiction. Wellbutrin’s mechanism of action differs from these substances, and it does not produce the same addictive effects. However, it is important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and not abruptly discontinue the medication without medical guidance.

5. Wellbutrin immediately improves mood.
Another misconception is that Wellbutrin provides immediate relief for depressive symptoms. In reality, it may take about six weeks or more for individuals to experience the full therapeutic effects of Wellbutrin. Like most antidepressants, Wellbutrin requires time to build up in the system and affect neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Patience and adherence to the prescribed treatment plan are essential for optimal outcomes.

When to Use Wellbutrin for Treating Anxiety?

The use of Wellbutrin for anxiety is considered off-label. Thus, the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual’s symptoms, medical history, and response to other treatments. Here are some scenarios where Wellbutrin might be considered as a treatment option for anxiety:

  1. Comorbid depression and anxiety. Wellbutrin may be prescribed to address both depression and anxiety simultaneously. Wellbutrin’s antidepressant properties can help alleviate depressive symptoms, which may indirectly lead to a reduction in anxiety symptoms associated with depressive moods.
  2. Treatment-resistant anxiety. Traditional first-line treatments for anxiety, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are not always effective. In this case, Wellbutrin may be considered as an alternative. This decision is made by a healthcare professional who can assess the individual’s specific needs and evaluate the potential benefits and risks.
  3. Anxiety in the context of ADHD. Wellbutrin is sometimes prescribed for individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who also experience significant anxiety symptoms. This is because Wellbutrin can address symptoms of both ADHD and anxiety, potentially providing a dual benefit.
  4. Coexisting nicotine dependence. By targeting nicotine dependence, Wellbutrin can assist in quitting smoking. It, in turn, may alleviate some anxiety symptoms associated with smoking cessation, such as restlessness or irritability.
  5. Previous positive response. If an individual has responded well to Wellbutrin in the past and found it effective in reducing their anxiety symptoms, it can serve as valuable information when making treatment decisions. Other factors taken into account include the individual’s unique circumstances and medical history.

Other Medications That Treat Anxiety

Wellbutrin is not the first-line treatment and not the only option for treating anxiety. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized advice and guidance regarding the most appropriate treatment. Several medications can be effective in treating anxiety disorders. These are disclosed below.


  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are often the first-line treatment for anxiety disorders. They work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, which helps regulate mood and reduce anxiety symptoms. Commonly prescribed SSRIs for anxiety include escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac), and paroxetine (Paxil).
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs are another class of antidepressants used to treat anxiety disorders. They increase both serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) are commonly prescribed SNRIs for anxiety.

The choice of antidepressants for anxiety treatment depends on various factors, including the individual’s specific symptoms, medical history, and response to medication.

Wellbutrin for anxiety symptoms


Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed for short-term relief of severe anxiety symptoms. They work by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Examples of benzodiazepines commonly prescribed for anxiety include alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin). However, benzodiazepines can be habit-forming and are generally prescribed for short durations.

When to Consult a Doctor

Common symptoms associated with anxiety disorders that require attention include the following:

  • Restlessness and edginess.
  • Fatigue and low energy.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Irritability.
  • Excessive worry.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Physical symptoms (frequent headaches, muscle tension or aches, stomachaches, and unexplained pains throughout the body).

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety that significantly interfere with your daily life, it is advisable to consult a doctor. A mental health professional can assess your symptoms, provide an accurate diagnosis, and develop an individualized treatment plan.


Bupropion can have varying effects on anxiety. Some individuals can experience a reduction in anxiety symptoms when taking bupropion. However, bupropion may also potentially worsen anxiety symptoms or trigger anxiety in individuals. Consult with a healthcare professional to evaluate your circumstances and determine the most appropriate treatment approach.

The dosage of Wellbutrin for anxiety is determined by a healthcare professional based on the severity of anxiety symptoms, medical history, and individual response to the medication.

In general, takes around 6-8 weeks to experience a significant improvement in anxiety symptoms with Wellbutrin. During the initial weeks of treatment, some individuals may experience side effects or fluctuations in their mood before experiencing the desired reduction in anxiety symptoms. It is important to continue taking Wellbutrin as prescribed and communicate any concerns or changes in symptoms to a healthcare professional.

Wellbutrin may be used off-label to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD). The antidepressant’s properties may indirectly address anxiety symptoms that are associated with depressive moods or when anxiety symptoms are interconnected with depression. However, it is essential to consult with a medical specialist to discuss your anxiety symptoms and diagnosis to determine the most appropriate course of treatment.

There is no definitive answer to whether Wellbutrin (bupropion) is superior to Zoloft (sertraline) in treating anxiety. Both medications have different mechanisms of action, and their effectiveness can vary depending on individual responses. One research [7*] found no significant differences between Zoloft and Wellbutrin in controlling anxiety symptoms.

This being said, Wellbutrin is primarily prescribed as an antidepressant and is not specifically approved for treating anxiety disorders. Zoloft, on the other hand, is an antidepressant in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. It is FDA-approved for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder (SAD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The symptoms of anxiety caused by Wellbutrin (bupropion) may include increased restlessness, heightened worry or fear, and racing thoughts. There may also be physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, sweating, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal discomfort, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. It may also cause panic attacks.

The duration of anxiety caused by bupropion (Wellbutrin) can vary, but in most cases, it tends to subside within the first few weeks of starting the medication.


+7 sources
  1. Bupropion for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. (2017)
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  2. Bupropion-sustained release as a treatment for SSRI-induced sexual side effects. (2002)
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  3. Bupropion for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. (2017)
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  4. Bupropion. (2012)
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  5. The Many Uses of Bupropion and Bupropion Sustained Release (SR) in Adults. (2002)
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  6. Antidepressant efficacy and side-effect burden: a quick guide for clinicians. (2015)
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  7. Does Bupropion Increase Anxiety? (2023)
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