Wellbutrin for Social Anxiety: Usage and Side Effects
Numbers by the National Institute of Mental Health show that about 12 percent of US adults experience social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. And for a large number of adults with social anxiety disorder, the condition has significant effects on their ability to function.
The disorder is more than just shyness, as it prevents you from performing tasks out of fear that you’ll be judged. And it can get progressively worse without therapeutic interventions. Fortunately, there are suitable treatments available, including medication, to alleviate social anxiety. One of these is Wellbutrin, so let’s discuss what it is, how it works to alleviate anxiety, and whether it has any side effects.
What is Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin is the brand name of the FDA-approved medication bupropion. It is approved to treat certain depressive disorders, such as major depression and seasonal affective disorder. Now, healthcare providers are learning that it can alleviate feelings of anxiety as well.
Healthcare providers prescribe Wellbutrin as part of a comprehensive program. At specialized treatment centers like URP Behavioral Health, mental health professionals also recommend psychotherapy and other lifestyle changes.
Effects of Wellbutrin on Anxiety
It belongs to a class of antidepressants called NDRIs, which stands for norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Wellbutrin works in a similar way as SSRI, except it blocks the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. This increases the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, which helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Healthcare providers prescribe antidepressants like Wellbutrin for anxiety because of their effects on the brain’s neurotransmitters. These chemical messengers affect your feelings of well-being, which include your mood, sleep, and anxiety levels. Currently, researchers have yet to understand the mechanism Wellbutrin uses to treat anxiety.
What to Expect when You Take Wellbutrin
Remember that you won’t feel better as soon as you take your first dosage. How quickly the medication works also depends on your disorder.
Antidepressants like Wellbutrin need some time to work effectively. So, you’ll need to wait about six weeks until you start seeing noticeable changes. Even if you’re not getting the results you expected, don’t take a higher dosage without consulting your healthcare provider.
That being said, you will start to see some changes in the first few weeks. These will indicate that it’s working. You may experience improved sleep, energy levels, and quality of sleep, but more serious symptoms will take additional time.
Benefits of Taking Wellbutrin for Social Anxiety
Healthcare providers prescribe Wellbutrin for social anxiety due to a number of reasons. Usually, they prescribe it when you haven’t responded to other medications used to treat anxiety. Wellbutrin is also considered if you’ve experienced serious side effects from other medications and can’t tolerate them very well.
A major benefit of taking bupropion is that it doesn’t have the common side effects that prevent people from continuing their course of antidepressant medication. This includes weight gain and changes in your sex drive.
Recommended Dosage for Wellbutrin
The right Wellbutrin dosage to reduce social anxiety symptoms depends on your age, weight, and anxiety disorder. When you start taking Wellbutrin, your doctor will recommend taking a smaller dosage. Gradually, they’ll increase it until you’re taking 150 mg of Wellbutrin daily. You can take 3 times this amount depending on how effectively Wellbutrin addresses your symptoms.
Risk of Wellbutrin Overdose
Overdosing on bupropion can lead to serious health complications that can potentially be life-threatening. Taking an excessive amount of Wellbutrin can result in symptoms such as loss of consciousness, hallucinations, and seizures. If you think you have overdosed on Wellbutrin, call emergency services and get immediate medical attention.
Different Versions of Wellbutrin
There are different versions of Wellbutrin, all of which have bupropion as the main ingredient. Keep in mind that the dosage for each type will vary depending on your symptoms.
- Wellbutrin: Wellbutrin’s regular formulation is an immediate-release antidepressant. This means you’ll experience its effects as soon as you take it.
- Wellbutrin SR: This is the sustained-release version, so the body absorbs it more slowly than the regular formulation.
- Wellbutrin XL: This is the extended-release formulation and is absorbed even more slowly. With this version, you only need to take one per day.
Does Wellbutrin Cause Anxiety?
There is some confusion about the effect of Wellbutrin on anxiety, as some people worry that it can cause anxiety instead. Although bupropion can cause anxiety, the risk of experiencing side effects is as low as that of other antidepressants.
Most types of antidepressants can cause anxiety as a side effect, and about 1 in 10 people who take antidepressants experience this side effect. Though there’s a small risk of Wellbutrin leading to anxiety, it’s an effective medication for people who struggle with anxiety. Not to mention, it results in fewer side effects like sexual performance issues and weight gain.
Side Effects of Wellbutrin
Before you start taking Wellbutrin, you should speak with your doctor to discuss your concerns. When you start taking your dosage, you’ll need to keep a close eye on how your body responds to the medication. Some of the common side effects include such as an increased heartbeat, nausea, sleep disturbances, and dry mouth.
These are common, and you can expect them to subside as your body gets used to the medication. But if they persist, it’s recommended that you consult your healthcare provider so they can change your medication or dosage.
Some of the rare side effects include constipation, restlessness, manic episodes, and seizures. If you experience any of these issues, discontinue the medication and consult your doctor.
Preventing Side Effects
Although the thought of taking Wellbutrin and experiencing side effects may seem daunting, certain measures can help you avoid them. The most important is to take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. If you have a pre-existing condition, talk to your doctor and let them know whether you take any medications.
Keep in mind that certain factors can increase your risk of experiencing side effects like seizures when you take Wellbutrin. This includes drug abuse, liver problems, and taking a high dosage of Wellbutrin.
Who Shouldn’t Take Wellbutrin
In certain cases, Wellbutrin isn’t a suitable option for treating social anxiety. Taking Wellbutrin when you have the following disorders can lead to further complications:
- Bipolar disorder: Because antidepressants alleviate low mood, they risk exacerbating manic symptoms or inducing a manic episode if you have bipolar disorder. If needed to address anxiety symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a mood stabilizer as well.
- Seizure disorders: Although Wellbutrin doesn’t cause seizures, it can lower your seizure threshold, which increases the risk of experiencing them. As a result, it’s not recommended for people with a history of seizures.
- Eating disorders: Studies have found a link between eating disorders and an increased risk of seizures. If you currently have an eating disorder or a history of anorexia or bulimia nervosa, Wellbutrin can potentially aggravate seizures.
When to Take Wellbutrin for Social Anxiety
Research shows that social anxiety disorder is accompanied by a high risk of depression due to the effects of the disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, social anxiety disorder can make it difficult to interact with people and make friends.
Studies indicate that bupropion proved highly effective at alleviating participants’ social phobia. The participants who completed 12 weeks of treatment with Wellbutrin reported that their symptoms had “much improved.”
Your doctor may prescribe Wellbutrin for your social anxiety when other antidepressants, such as SSRIs and SNRIs, don’t provide the results you’re looking for.
Wellbutrin Drug Interactions
Besides certain conditions, taking certain medications can also lead to adverse reactions if you take Wellbutrin:
- Antipsychotics can lower your epileptogenic threshold, so taking them with Wellbutrin can further increase your risk of experiencing a seizure.
- Combining Wellbutrin with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can lead to a dangerous increase in blood pressure.
- Anti-inflammatory medication or corticosteroids can lead to a higher risk of seizures when used with Wellbutrin.
- Taking blood thinners increases the impact of Wellbutrin when you take them together. Your doctor may have to adjust your dosage accordingly if you’re currently taking blood thinners.
- Heart medications like antiarrhythmics can lead to low blood pressure when you take them with Wellbutrin.
If you take any of these medications, as well as HIV or anti-seizure medication, consult your doctor before taking Wellbutrin. They may alter your dosage for Wellbutrin or both medications or prescribe a different antidepressant altogether.
How to Manage Social Anxiety with Wellbutrin
While Wellbutrin is an effective medication for alleviating symptoms of social anxiety, it works best when paired with other therapeutic interventions. At treatment facilities such as URP Behavioral Health, mental health experts adopt a holistic approach. This means combining pharmacotherapy with evidence-based psychotherapies and holistic measures meant to improve well-being. By taking medication, you become more receptive to the following measures:
- Psychotherapy approaches such as CBT are evidence-based treatments that help you change your unhelpful beliefs and replace them with more realistic ones.
- Holistic therapies such as yoga and meditation can help relax your mind and instill feelings of mindfulness.
- Regular exercise is proven to reduce feelings of anxiety by diverting your attention away from the activity or object making you anxious.
- Balanced nutrition can prevent your anxiety symptoms from exacerbating, as studies show an association between high-fat diets and anxiety.
Similarly, there’s a link between excessive dietary habits such as caffeine consumption, poor hydration, and anxiety. It’s why doctors recommend cutting back on alcohol and caffeine to improve the effects of Wellbutrin.
Wellbutrin is a well-tolerated and effective antidepressant that can help alleviate feelings of anxiety. It’s available in immediate, sustained, and extended-release versions, and the dosage will depend on your symptoms and whether you have other disorders as well. Typically, you should expect to wait a few weeks before you experience any changes, and side effects usually subside once your body gets used to the medication. However, if you experience any rare side effects or don’t feel your symptoms are getting better, it’s best to speak with your doctor. If Wellbutrin alleviates your anxiety symptoms, it’s best paired with a comprehensive treatment program for long-term recovery.