Does Wellbutrin Cause Weight Gain?

Wellbutrin also known as bupropion is often associated with weight changes, but does it specifically cause weight gain?

The answer is that it might. Wellbutrin can cause weight gain in some people, but it is more likely to cause weight loss rather than gain.

In fact, it is often prescribed in part because it has a lower risk of weight gain as a side effect compared to other antidepressants. It’s important to note that individual responses can vary and the impact of Wellbutrin on weight can depend on a variety of factors.

While these weight changes have been observed in many, the reasoning behind them is not well known. Some speculate that it occurs because of the antidepressant’s effect on certain neurotransmitters, while others suspect that it may result from treating the individual’s condition (and their symptoms). 

Whatever the cause, weight changes observed with antidepressant use are often minimal, and they can go either way. Some people who take Wellbutrin may experience weight gain, while others experience weight loss. The results can differ for each person, although weight loss (especially when focusing on healthy lifestyle habits) is typically more common.

Key takeaways:

  • Wellbutrin is a brand name bupropion, which is a type of antidepressant.
  • Wellbutrin can potentially cause weight changes, but it is more likely to cause weight loss rather than gain.
  • The exact reason behind the weight changes associated with Wellbutrin use is not fully understood.
  • Weight changes observed with antidepressant use can vary from person to person.
  • Leading a healthy lifestyle can help mitigate potential weight changes while taking Wellbutrin.
  • If you are concerned by the weight changes observed while taking Wellbutrin, it is best to speak to a doctor about ways to combat these changes.

Continue reading to learn more about Wellbutrin and its potential effects on weight.

Table of Contents

What Is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin is a brand name for bupropion, which is a type of antidepressant classified as an aminoketone. Aminoketones weakly inhibit the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are two neurotransmitters that send messages to nerve cells. Typically, once the message is sent, the brain reabsorbs the neurotransmitters through a process called reuptake. However, aminoketones block this reabsorption, increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

Some of the conditions that Wellbutrin has been approved to treat include seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). Wellbutrin is also used to help someone quit smoking (smoking cessation).

There are also some “off-label” benefits to bupropion when used to treat bipolar disorder and ADHD. However, the FDA has not yet approved Wellbutrin for the treatment of these conditions.

Does Wellbutrin Cause Weight Gain?

Wellbutrin may cause weight gain in some individuals.

In one study on Wellbutrin and weight changes, 11% of the participants gained more than 5 pounds. However, in the same study, 23% of the participants lost 5 pounds or more. So, while Wellbutrin may cause weight gain, it can also cause weight loss.

How Does Wellbutrin Affect Your Weight?

Most of the research surrounding Wellbutrin and weight change suggests that it is more likely to cause weight loss than weight gain. However, these results are most prominent when Wellbutrin is combined with healthy lifestyle changes versus when it is used on its own.

Does Wellbutrin Make It Hard to Lose Weight?

Wellbutrin does not make it hard to lose weight, and research has shown that weight loss is often achieved when combining Wellbutrin with a balanced diet and exercise.

One study showed that taking Wellbutrin while following a calorie-deficit diet for 12 weeks showed a 5% decrease in body weight.

Wellbutrin can also help with long-term weight loss, with a 2016 study finding that the participants were more likely to maintain their weight loss from Wellbutrin if they lost at least 5% of their body weight within the first 16 weeks of taking Wellbutrin.

Do Other Antidepressants Cause Weight Gain?

Research regarding the effect of antidepressants on weight is mixed, with some studies reporting weight loss while others report weight gain. The primary reason behind this uncertainty is that many factors contribute to weight changes, and it is difficult to consider all of them when completing studies, especially long-term observational studies.

A ten-year study on more than 300,000 individuals who take antidepressants did find an increased risk of weight gain. However, the authors of the study emphasize that they could not determine if the weight gain was because of the antidepressants or because of other uncontrollable factors such as age, socioeconomic status, and genetics.

If weight change is observed, though, it is typically minimal and gradual, which makes it easier to combat using lifestyle changes such as exercise and balanced diets.

There are some antidepressants that typically have a higher likelihood of weight gain, and they include:

  • Paroxetine (Pareva, Paxil)
  • Nortriptyline (Aventyl)
  • Imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)

Other Side Effects of Wellbutrin

When starting Wellbutrin, some of the most common side effects include restlessness, agitation, and insomnia. Temporarily lowering the dose or avoiding taking Wellbutrin at bedtime can often help combat these initial side effects.

Some other side effects that affect more than 10% of all Wellbutrin users include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • dry mouth
  • difficulty sleeping
  • headache

There is an increased risk of seizures with Wellbutrin, with 1 in 1,000 people who take Wellbutrin at risk. Because of this, Wellbutrin is not recommended for those already at a higher risk of seizures because it lowers the seizure threshold, making seizures more likely to occur.

Those who should avoid Wellbutrin include those who:

  • have an active brain tumor
  • have a history of epilepsy
  • have experienced head trauma
  • have bulimia nervosa or anorexia

When to See a Doctor?

If you are taking Wellbutrin and are concerned about weight changes that you have experienced, it is recommended to discuss these changes with your doctor.

Get Help From an Online Doctor!

If you are interested in taking Wellbutrin, meeting with an online doctor allows you to discuss your symptoms and if this antidepressant is the best option. Additionally, if you are concerned about the weight changes you have experienced while taking Wellbutrin, you can meet with an online doctor in just 15 minutes using DrHouse to discuss your weight changes and what habits you can change to combat them.

Key Takeaways

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. It is FDA-approved to treat major depressive disorder (MAD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and to aid smoking cessation. Additionally, it has found “off-label” success in treating bipolar disorder and ADHD.

Antidepressants are often associated with causing weight gain, but the evidence supporting this is split. In fact, most evidence shows a greater likelihood of antidepressants aiding weight loss, although the weight loss observed is typically minimal, only a few pounds.

If you are concerned by the weight changes observed while taking Wellbutrin, it is best to speak to a doctor about ways to combat these changes, which can typically be managed with changes in habits.

Sources:

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

DrHouse

Healthcare

on your schedule

Skip the unnecessary waiting room,
see a board-certified clinician now.

Start an Online Visit
Available in 50 states. No insurance needed.

Prescriptions as needed
Renew or get a new Rx.

On-demand virtual visits
See a clinician in 15 minutes.

24/7 care support
We are here to help you.

DrHouse
  • 1

    Download the DrHouse app.
    Set up your free account in a minute.

  • 2

    Start a visit with an online doctor. Wait time is less than 15 minutes.

  • 3

    Get an Rx from your preferred pharmacy. Pick up a Rx nearby or get it delivered to you.

Download our app