Doctors may prescribe Wellbutin to treat depression or help someone quit smoking. But you may experience anxiety and other symptoms shortly after starting it, especially if the dose is increased too quickly.

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant medication that has several on- and off-label uses. You may also see it referred to by its generic name, bupropion.

Medications can affect people in different ways. As such, Wellbutrin has been linked to anxiety in some cases. But while it can cause anxiety in some people, it is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders in others.

Read on to learn more about Wellbutrin, its link with anxiety, and the benefits and risks of using it.

Shortly after beginning Wellbutrin, some people may have symptoms such as:

  • anxiety
  • feeling restless
  • agitation
  • excitement
  • being unable to sleep (insomnia)
  • shaking

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sometimes these symptoms were serious enough to require treatment with sedative or anti-anxiety medication during clinical trials.

Additionally, about 2 percent of people stopped treatment with Wellbutrin due to these anxiety-related symptoms.

These types of side effects may be due to the dosage of Wellbutrin being increased too quickly. If you’re experiencing anxiety-like symptoms or jitters after starting Wellbutrin, discuss them with your doctor.

It may seem counterintuitive since anxiety is a potential side effect, but there’s some limited data on the use of Wellbutrin to treat anxiety disorders.

One older pilot study did find that bupropion XL was comparable to escitalopram (an SSRI, another type of antidepressant) in treating people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

While this may suggest that Wellbutrin could possibly be a second- or third-line treatment option for GAD, larger, more extensive trials are required to confirm this.

There’s also some evidence that bupropion may help treat panic disorder. One case study found that bupropion at a dose of 150 milligrams daily improved panic and anxiety symptoms in an individual with panic disorder.

Anecdotal evidence also supports the use of bupropion in addition to other medications to treat panic disorder. However, like the GAD pilot study, further research is needed to determine whether bupropion is effective in treating panic disorder.

The FDA has approved Wellbutrin for:

The exact way Wellbutrin works to treat these conditions is unknown. It’s thought to affect levels of mood-influencing chemicals called dopamine and norepinephrine.

This is different from some other antidepressants, which affect levels of serotonin.

Wellbutrin can also be prescribed off-label for some conditions. Off-label means that the FDA hasn’t approved it to treat these conditions. These conditions include:

Questions for your doctor

Discuss the following with your doctor before starting Wellbutrin:

  • Why do I need to take Wellbutrin? Why am I being prescribed Wellbutrin as opposed to another medication to treat my condition?
  • Can you explain both the benefits and risks of Wellbutrin to me?
  • How long will I be taking Wellbutrin? When and how will you review if it’s been effective in treating my condition?
  • What are some side effects I should look out for? When should I report side effects to you?
  • When and how should I take Wellbutrin? What happens if I miss a dose?
  • Is there anything I should avoid while taking Wellbutrin?

Since Wellbutrin can interact with a variety of other drugs, it’s also important to discuss with your doctor if you’re taking any additional medications or supplements and whether you’ve experienced any adverse side effects while taking them.

Common side effects of Wellbutrin occur during the first couple weeks you start taking it. They often lessen over time. They can include:

  • trouble sleeping
  • quick heartbeat
  • nervousness or agitation
  • feeling dizzy
  • headache
  • tremors
  • dry mouth
  • nausea
  • constipation

Wellbutrin has some more rare or severe side effects as well, one of which is seizure. The risk of seizure is greater in people who:

  • are taking higher doses of Wellbutrin
  • have a history of seizures
  • have had a tumor or injury in the brain
  • have liver disease, such as cirrhosis
  • have an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia
  • are dependent on drugs or alcohol
  • are taking other medications that can increase seizure risk

Additional rare or serious side effects include:

Despite potential side effects, Wellbutrin can provide several benefits to people who take it, including:

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that’s approved to treat major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and to help with quitting smoking. It’s also prescribed off-label to treat conditions like ADHD and bipolar disorder.

Some people have anxiety-related symptoms, such as restlessness or agitation, shortly after starting Wellbutrin. Because these symptoms may be related to the dosage of your medication, speak with your doctor if you’re feeling anxious after starting Wellbutrin.

In addition to anxiety, there are other side effects associated with Wellbutrin, some of which can be very serious.

If you’re prescribed Wellbutrin, be sure to take it exactly as your doctor instructs and to promptly report any serious side effects.