Wellbutrin (Bupropion) For Anxiety: Benefits & Side Effects

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for several conditions. It is also used for several ‘off-label’ conditions. It works by increasing certain activities in the brain. The generic name for Wellbutrin is Bupropion. 

Uses of Wellbutrin

Wellbutrin is approved by the FDA for Major Depressive Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (seasonal depression that usually occurs in fall and winter). 

This drug also has several off-label uses, which includes bipolar disorder, manic depressive disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Zyban, which is another brand of bupropion, is used to help people quit smoking. Bupropion also used to treat several anxiety disorders, including General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Disorder.

How to take Wellbutrin?

Bupropion comes as a tablet in 3 different forms – immediate release (IR), sustained release (SR) and extended release (XL). 

Bupropion IR tables are usually taken two or three times a day. Bupropion SR is usually taken twice a day while Bupropion XL is taken once a day.

The last dose for Bupropion IR and SR is usually taken by the mid afternoon. Bupropion XL is usually taken only in the morning. 

Your doctor will determine the dosage that you need and will most likely start with a low dosage and adjust according to your response towards the drug. 

Bupropion can be taken on an empty stomach or after food. Tablets should not be chewed, crushed or broken and should be swallowed whole. This will not only ensure that the medication works properly, but also to decrease the risk of side effects that may be caused by this medication

How long does it take for Wellbutrin to work? 

It may take up to 4 to 6 weeks for improvement in depressed mood and lack of interest in activities. If medication is working, there should be some improvement in sleep quality, energy and appetite within the first 1 to 2 weeks. 

Wellbutrin and Anxiety

Wellbutrin has been linked to anxiety in two ways – by causing anxiety and by alleviating it. Read on to find out more.

Does Wellbutrin cause anxiety?

Some people experience the following symptoms when they start taking Wellbutrin:

  • Feeling agitated
  • Feeling restless
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Unexplained excitement
  • Shaking

Studies show that around 2% on Wellbutrin stopped treatment with this medication due to symptoms that are related to anxiety. Some of the above-mentioned symptoms were serious enough to warrant the use of sedative and/or anti-anxiety medication to calm the patients. 

These anxiety-like side effects may be caused by the quick dosage increase of the medication. 

Can Wellbutrin Help Anxiety? 

Although anxiety can be a side effect, there is data that supports the effectiveness of Wellbutrin in treating anxiety disorders. 

Research shows that bupropion XL is as effective as escitalopram, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) when used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This means that Wellbutrin can well be used as a second or third line treatment for GAD. 

Additionally, a study on bupropion demonstrated that it can help treat panic disorder. In this study, patients suffering with panic disorder who were given 150mg of bupropion daily had significantly reduced anxiety symptoms. 

Side Effects of Wellbutrin

Wellbutrin may cause common to severe side effects, so let your doctor know if you experience any of the following:

Common  Side Effects

Common side effects when taking this medication include:

  • drowsiness
  • anxiety
  • excitement
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • dry mouth
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • constipation
  • excessive sweating
  • ringing in the ears
  • changes in your sense of taste
  • frequent urination
  • sore throat

Severe Side Effects

If you experience any of these side effects, tell your doctor or get medical help immediately:

  • seizures
  • confusion
  • hallucinating (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
  • irrational fears
  • muscle or joint pain
  • rapid, pounding, or irregular heartbeat

Allergic reactions

You may be experiencing an allergic reaction to Wellbutrin if you have

  • fever
  • rash or blisters
  • itching
  • hives
  • swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • hoarseness
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • chest pain

Call your doctor immediately if you suspect that you are having an allergic reaction. 

Benefits of taking Wellbutrin

Although there may be common to severe side effects, taking Wellbutrin has several benefits:

  • There is no known side effects from long terms use of this drug
  • Compared to other antidepressants, Wellbutin has less sexual side effects, such as decreased libido
  • It is very effective in treating seasonal affective disorder and major depressive disorder
  • It helps people to stop smoking

What to discuss with your doctor before taking Wellbutrin?

Here are some things to discuss with your doctor to ensure that the drug is safe for you. 

  • If you use alcohol or other drugs. Alcohol can make the side effects worse. 
  • If you are breastfeeding, expectant or plan to get pregnant.
  • Other non-medication you are currently using (such as substance abuse treatment or psychotherapy). Your doctor will then explain how Bupropion works with the medication and adjust your dosage accordingly. 
  • If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • If you start experiencing side effects with your medication, alert your doctor; while some may pass with time, it may be a warning that you need a change in medication.
  • Any other medical problems or psychiatric issues you have including seizures, anorexia nervosa or bulimia and bipolar disorder history.
  • Any other medication you are using or allergies you may have.
  • The most disturbing symptoms of your condition.
  • Other medications you took in your past and their effects.

Precautions before taking Wellbutrin

As with other medication, here are some precautions that you need to take before consuming Wellbutrin.

Be aware that there have been reports of changes in behavior such as hostility, agitation, depression as well as suicidal thoughts when this medication is taken to help people stop smoking. These symptoms can start when u first take bupropion or after a few weeks on this medication. These symptoms can occur in people without a history of mental illness and are seemingly worse in people who suffer from mental illness. 

Do contact your doctor immediately if you experience suicidal thoughts, anxiety, agitation, hostile behavior, increased risk taking, hallucinations, and confusions. Be sure that you have someone close to you who knows these signs and symptoms, especially if you are not able to seek treatment on your own. 

You should also be aware of the ingredients used to make Wellbutrin especially if you have experienced allergies to any other medication before. Before starting on this medication, inform your doctor and/or pharmacist what other medication, supplements, vitamins as well as herbal products that you are taking, including non-prescription medication. 

Also, check that other medication that you are taking does not contain bupropion as this will cause you to take too big a dosage and increase unwanted side effects. 

Be aware that this medication can cause blood pressure to increase as well as angle-closure glaucoma. Talk to your doctor about these conditions and have the necessary examinations done before starting on Wellbutrin. If you notice any changes in your blood pressure or changes in your vision, seek medical help immediately. 

Besides this, you should also know that this medication may cause drowsiness. Therefore, until you know how this medication affects you, it is best not to drive a vehicle or operate machinery.

Wellbutrin interactions

Drug interactions can cause changes in how your medications work as well as increase the risk of side effects.  Wellbutrin may interact with drugs such as:

  • Codeine
  • Pimozide
  • Tamoxifen
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) 

It can also interfere with medical or lab tests for Parkinson’s disease brain scan and urine screening for amphetamines. 

Wellbutrin dosage

Follow the prescribed dosage that is given to you by your medical practitioner for best results as well as to avoid complications. 


Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Seizure
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid and/or pounding heartbeat

If you suspect an overdose, contact medical emergency services immediately. 

Missed dose

If you missed a dose, skip the missed dose and continue your medication with the next dose. Never take a double dose to make up for the missed dose as taking more than what is prescribed may increase the risk of seizures. It is important that you follow the timing of your medication schedule. 

Wellbutrin storage & disposal

Wellbutrin should be kept at room temperature and away from light, excess heat and moisture. Keep it in a child proof container in a safe location that is out of reach and sight of children to prevent access for young children.

Medication that is not needed anymore should be disposed of properly to ensure that other people, children and pets are not able to consume it. If you are unsure of how to dispose of the medication, contact your doctor or your local pharmacist. 


It can be extremely hard to manage and overcome anxiety. However, medications such as Wellbutrin can help those who are suffering from anxiety disorders to live a normal life. Although there seems to be quite a number of side effects with this drug, it can be very helpful in battling anxiety when prescribed by your physician. Do follow the dosage prescribed by your doctor and if you experience any side effects, get immediate medical help. 

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