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erika dalton

By NABH Staff

Medically Reviewed by Erika Dalton, LMSW

Last Updated on May 15, 2024

erika dalton

By NABH Staff

Medically Reviewed by Erika Dalton, LMSW

Last Updated on May 15, 2024


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Mental health disorders cannot be treated by treating the symptoms alone. We use holistic and evidence-based methods to treat the entire individual.

Wellbutrin helps people with depressive symptoms from major depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and other mood disorders. How long Wellbutrin will take to work and how well it works depends on factors unique to each person. However, if you aren’t having any luck with other antidepressants, or experience adverse side effects from them, Wellbutrin could work as an alternative.

At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we include psychiatry as part of comprehensive treatment for mental health disorders. Visit our admissions page today to get started.

What is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a prescription mental health medication that alleviates depressive symptoms. It is also used for smoking cessation and has off-label uses, including treating anxiety and ADHD. 

Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). This makes it different from SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants, like Prozac, Zoloft, and Cymbalta. Unlike SSRI and SNRI antidepressants, Wellbutrin does not affect the neurotransmitter serotonin.

So, if SSRIs or SNRIs don’t work for you, your psychiatrist might prescribe Wellbutrin for a depressive disorder.


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What is Wellbutrin Used For?

Since Wellbutrin treats depressive symptoms, it is primarily used for treating depression and related mood disorders.

Wellbutrin is commonly prescribed for the following disorders:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): Also called “clinical” or “major” depression, MDD is one of the most common types of mental health disorders in the US. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “An estimated 21.0 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode”—or 8.3% of all US adults.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD, sometimes called “the winter blues,” primarily affects people in northern regions when the number of daylight hours decreases. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), “About 5% of adults in the U.S. experience SAD and it typically lasts about 40% of the year.”
  • Smoking Cessation: Wellbutrin is also one of only seven medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help people quit smoking.

In addition, Wellbutrin has off-label (non-FDA-approved) uses, including treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety.

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How Does Wellbutrin Work?

As a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), Wellbutrin blocks the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating mood, motivation, and attention. They are also part of the brain’s reward system—helping you experience pleasure.

While it’s still unknown exactly how Wellbutrin works, it does increase the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain for some people. By increasing these neurotransmitters, it alleviates depressive symptoms, improving your motivation, mood, and outlook.

Does Wellbutrin Help with Anxiety?

Wellbutrin has an off-label use for anxiety treatment. However, it is primarily used to treat people with anxiety as a side effect of depression. For this reason, it can help with mixed anxiety-depression disorder (MADD).

Therefore, Wellbutrin is generally not prescribed when you have an anxiety disorder without depressive symptoms. 

Anxiety can also be a side effect of Wellbutrin, so it is important to talk to your prescribing physician about any side effects to adjust levels or try a different type of antidepressant.

woman with an anxiety disorder

How Long Does It Take for Wellbutrin to Work?

How long it can take for Wellbutrin to work depends on factors unique to you and your prescription. These factors include your dose and frequency, metabolism, co-occurring health conditions, and potential medication interactions if you take other prescription drugs.

However, you should expect Wellbutrin to work within the following approximate timeline:

  • During the first few weeks, your body will adapt to taking Wellbutrin. You could have some mild side effects at this time. These side effects could include headaches, nausea, and insomnia.
  • After a few weeks, your body adapts and side effects diminish. Depressive symptoms will gradually reduce in severity and frequency. Therefore, you start to feel an improved mood, increased energy, and motivation.
  • When you take Wellbutrin for several months, the effectiveness improves. You’ll experience a stable mood, increased sense of well-being, and improved relationships as a result. In addition, you’ll feel more productive and engage in pleasurable activities more often.

Therefore, it’s important to continue taking Wellbutrin to treat your symptoms long-term. Oftentimes, people stop taking it once they start to feel better. However, if you suddenly stop taking Wellbutrin, you could have a relapse in depressive symptoms soon afterward.

As with any medication, talk to your doctor about any concerns or side effects you have while taking Wellbutrin.

Potential Side Effects

Wellbutrin has fewer of the adverse side effects commonly associated with other antidepressants, such as weight gain, apathy, reduced energy, and sexual performance issues. For this reason, Wellbutrin could be an alternative if you have any of these side effects while on other antidepressants.

However, Wellbutrin isn’t entirely without its side effects and common side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia

Generally, these side effects go away when your body gets used to Wellbutrin. So, mild side effects should go away within a few weeks. Still, if these side effects don’t go away or worsen, speak to your physician about your options.

In addition, some people have severe side effects, including:

  • Seizures
  • Allergic reactions
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Abnormal behaviors

Talk to your doctor immediately about the above-mentioned side effects. You might need to decrease your dosage or frequency. Or, your doctor could prescribe a different medication entirely if adverse side effects persist.

doctor explains Wellbutrin side effects

Is Wellbutrin Addictive?

There is a low risk of addiction when you take Wellbutrin as prescribed. So, if Wellbutrin doesn’t produce the desired effects, don’t try to increase the dosage on your own. Instead, talk to your physician—after all, how long Wellbutrin takes to work varies from person to person. 

Still, some people abuse Wellbutrin, meaning that they take it without a prescription or misuse their prescription. The effects are similar to cocaine but less intense. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Wellbutrin (bupropion) abuse “[includes] recreational ingestion, nasal insufflation of crushed tablets and . . . intravenous injection.” 

Finding Psychiatry in Atlanta

North Atlanta Behavioral Health provides mental health services for those with depression and other mental health disorders. Our psychiatrists can help you find a medication that works for you, such as Wellbutrin or other antidepressants. Along with holistic approaches and therapy, Wellbutrin can be a part of your comprehensive treatment plan to improve your mental health and mood.

Contact us today to find psychiatry in Atlanta, Georgia.

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