Does Wellbutrin Cause Weight Gain or Loss?

Wellbutrin — also known by the generic name bupropion — is a type of antidepressant in the norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI) class of drugs. Like all medications, people who take Wellbutrin run the risk of experiencing side effects. Many antidepressants are associated with weight change, and although most involve weight gain, Wellbutrin weight loss is more likely in some people. 

Understanding the potential side effects of Wellbutrin or any new drug is important. It ensures you know what might be normal vs. what may be concerning and something you should ask a doctor or medical professional about. 

Read on to learn more about the current research on how Wellbutrin causes weight loss or not.

Why Does Wellbutrin Affect Weight?

Research shows that Wellbutrin is different from most antidepressants. Many people who take it find that weight loss is more common than weight gain. We don’t fully understand how or why Wellbutrin (or other antidepressants) work, but it’s widely accepted their efficacy is related to their ability to alter the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that affect things like mood, sleep, and emotion regulation. There are several reasons Wellbutrin weight gain might be less common in most people and why weight loss occurs.

Appetite suppression

Wellbutrin works by altering levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Both of these neurotransmitters play a role in appetite regulation. Unlike other antidepressant medications, Wellbutrin can cause a decrease in appetite, which can lead to weight loss.

Metabolic rate increase

Wellbutrin can have a stimulant effect on the central nervous system, increasing metabolic rate and allowing some people to burn calories faster. As a result, it’s common to experience weight loss or have difficulty gaining weight when taking Wellbutrin.

Energy level boost

Because it has stimulant properties, Wellbutrin can cause an uptick in energy that might lead to increased physical activity. As a result of being more active, weight loss is possible when taking this antidepressant medication.

“The boost in energy level can lead to more physical activity. This can directly contribute to weight loss.”

– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger, MD

Reduction in cravings

Wellbutrin is sometimes prescribed for smoking cessation because it can reduce cravings. It’s believed that the same is true for food cravings. By altering the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, Wellbutrin can regulate reward pathways linked to cravings. When the cravings subside, you may eat less, resulting in weight loss. 

Neurotransmitter effects

Wellbutrin prevents the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. Because the neurotransmitters aren’t reabsorbed as quickly, higher levels remain in the brain, offering benefits like added fatty acids into the bloodstream and improved mood, motivation, and metabolism. Since it’s also known to reduce cravings and suppress appetite, weight loss is possible in some people.

“Norepinephrine increases the rate of fat loss by releasing fatty acids into the bloodstream. This reduction of fat contributes to weight loss. Dopamine works directly with appetite. There is a connection between low dopamine levels and overeating. A dopamine boost can prevent the urge for increased food intake.”

– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger, MD

How Fast Does Weight Loss Occur on Wellbutrin?

In one study, almost 70% of participants saw weight loss of more than 5% of their body weight in 8 to 24 weeks — most of which came from lost body fat. A clinical trial found that participants who lost 5% or more of their body weight within 16 weeks and stayed on Wellbutrin for a year or longer were more likely to keep that weight off. 

Another study looked at the effects of Wellbutrin weight loss when the drug was taken in combination with nutrition counseling and exercise. Researchers found that some clinically obese adults were able to lose between 7 and 10% of their body weight over 24 weeks. 

It’s important to note that Wellbutrin is not FDA-approved as a weight loss medication, although the drug is sometimes prescribed off-label to help. Also worth noting is that not everyone who takes Wellbutrin will lose weight. 

Factors that can impact weight loss on Wellbutrin include:




Weight when starting the medication

Dosage adherence

If you’re taking Wellbutrin and have questions about weight loss or weight gain, openly discuss your questions or concerns with your family physician. Be sure to let a healthcare professional know if you have a rapid or unexplained change in weight — more than 10 pounds in 4 – 6 weeks — or if your weight change is persistent over time. 

A doctor or mental health professional can offer personal, holistic medical advice that considers everything. Monitoring your progress allows them to make necessary adjustments to your treatment plan where and when needed.   

How to Manage Weight Changes While on Wellbutrin

Monitoring weight on Wellbutrin takes a well-defined plan that combines a healthy lifestyle, nutrition, and mindfulness. Manage Wellbutrin weight loss by keeping the following in mind. 

Monitor eating habits

Being mindful of your portion sizes and eating regular, consistent meals will help stabilize your metabolism and make maintaining weight easier. Monitoring your eating practices enables you to identify problematic habits that may contribute to a weight change — whether you’re eating too little or too much. 

Healthy diet 

A healthy diet is vital to maintaining a healthy weight for your body size and type. Focus on eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Limit how much processed food you eat and avoid foods high in refined sugar, carbohydrates, and saturated fats. 

Regular exercise

Studies show that working out regularly is great for establishing a healthy weight long-term. It’s also a proven way to improve mood, according to research. 

Consult a dietician

If you’re struggling with your weight or with making healthy lifestyle and diet changes, consider working with a dietician. They can offer expert advice and help you make beneficial changes to your diet and lifestyle that will promote weight loss.  

Mindful eating

Mindfulness simply means being aware of what you’re doing in the present. It’s an effective form of meditation that offers positive results, including weight loss. Paying attention to what — and how much — you’re eating can be a game changer in your weight loss journey. Mindfulness eating teaches you to become aware of thoughts and behaviors that are associated with eating by focusing on sensory aspects as you eat. 

Practicing mindfulness will help you learn to:

Eat with awareness

Pay attention to sensations like flavors, textures, and smells of foods

Listen to your own hunger and fullness cues

Savor what you’re eating so you can slow down

Be present at your meals so you can begin practicing a philosophy of eating to live instead of living to eat 

Recognize if you’re an emotional eater

Talk to a Psychiatrist About Wellbutrin Side Effects

Wellbutrin is different from most antidepressants in that it’s more likely to cause weight loss than weight gain. With any drug, it’s essential to find the right balance between the benefits it offers and the risk of potential adverse effects. Finding optimal mental and physical health should always be the ultimate goal. You can determine with your healthcare provider if Wellbutrin might help you get there.

“Wellbutrin is one of the top medication choices for patients concerned about weight gain. The likelihood of weight gain with this medication is very low. If a weight change is seen, it is more likely to be weight loss. If you have lost more than 10 lbs. over a 4 – 6 weeks period (without change in diet or increase in exercise), consult your healthcare provider. Rapid weight loss is never ideal for the body.”

– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger, MD

Talkspace helps you get the mental health guidance and support you need, along with prescriptions and medication management when needed. Talkspace psychiatrists are licensed and trained to help you find the most effective treatment plan to address your mental health needs. 

The best way to achieve a healthy mind and body is through a personalized approach that looks at you as a whole person. Talkspace can offer you everything you need to take control of your depression — or any other condition, including managing Wellbutrin weight loss — in a healthy way.

Connect with an online psychiatrist at Talkspace today to discuss a Wellbutrin prescription.


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