Benefits of Wellbutrin – A Quick Reference Guide
What is Wellbutrin and it’s benefits, especially in the treatment of bipolar disorder?
First and foremost, Wellbutrin, (generic name bupropion), is NOT your typical antidepressant!
It can be considered as a good “helping hands” medication if someone with bipolar disorder is taking a mood stabilizer and exhibits mainly anti-manic signs. Many prefer Wellbutrin medicine to a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) such as Zoloft or Prozac.
Why, you ask?
Well let me explain: a huge issue with consumers is that they stop taking their meds (even during serious bipolar depression). And the two big reasons for this are:
- Unwanted fat gain
- No sex drive
Wellbutrin, on the other hand, does NOT cause these side effects! Medical News Today states:
“Wellbutrin is chosen in preference to other antidepressants because its use is less likely to cause weight gain or sexual dysfunction.”
Other benefits of Wellbutrin?
We know from clinical studies that Wellbutrin is more than just an effective medication to take if you suffer from bipolar depression. Wellbutrin is as effective as an antidepressant such as Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil, and is more effective than Effexor.
Additional Wellbutrin benefits:
- Helps compulsive gamblers who have other bipolar disorder symptoms
- Helps smokers kick the habit (under the name of Zyban)
- Used as a treatment for ADHD
- Unlike so many other antidepressants, Wellbutrin does NOT induce fatigue
- Increases alertness and energy
- It is on the FDA approved list for treating Major Depressive Disorder as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Reminder: Wellbutrin is FDA approved for treating major depression but NOT for bipolar disorder.
Wellbutrin for Anxiety?
On the downside:
- Wellbutrin does not appear to have any anti-anxiety effects.
- If it is given in higher doses, anxiety may increase.
The good news – if a person happens to experience a major depressive episode along with anxiety, then Wellbutrin may be beneficial.
Get in-depth information on Wellbutrin from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Treating Bipolar with Wellbutrin
As with many medications, there are pros and cons to treating bipolar with Wellbutrin.
Perhaps the most obvious benefits of Wellbutrin lie in its different side effect profile. There is something almost too good to be true about an antidepressant that can improve sex drive and assist weight loss!
Also positive is the general feeling that Wellbutrin does not cause as much manic switching as other antidepressants.
It has helped me profoundly during my own periods of bipolar depression. In particular, it has been the much needed “helping hand” that has pulled me out of a black hole several times now and made it possible to get out of bed, wash my hair, and go to work. Fortunately, this “boost” in motivation and energy was not accompanied by any mania.
I also highly recommend bipolar counseling online if you’re going through bipolar depression. Sometimes, you just need to talk. But WHO you talk with is just as important.
So are there benefits of Wellbutrin in relation to the most typical comorbid bipolar conditions (For example: anxiety, substance abuse, impulsivity, and obesity)?
There is evidence that Wellbutrin medicine can help with social anxiety and generalized anxiety. However, it does not help against panic attacks and may even make them worse.
(This is why I stopped taking Wellbutrin. For someone who does not have panic problems, Wellbutrin may still be a good option, especially in combination with an anticonvulsant mood stabilizer or with lithium.)
- Substance abuse? One of the best known benefits of Wellbutrin is how it helps folks quit smoking cigarettes – and marijuana! It may increase sensitivity to alcohol – or it may not – the evidence is inconsistent.
- Impulsive behavior? Wellbutrin has been shown to be helpful for compulsive gamblers. It should be kept mind though that Wellbutrin is a medicine with stimulant properties and there is not enough data at this time to understand how it may either fuel or control impulsivity.
- Obesity? Wellbutrin has been trialled as a weight loss aid and is unusual in being an antidepressant that contributes to weight loss rather than weight gain. This is extremely important as people with bipolar disorder suffer from higher than normal rates of obesity and are up to 3 times more likely to die from related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Here’s what you’ll get:
- A list of meds most likely to cause weight gain (and varying degrees of weight gain)
- The 12 worst foods people with bipolar disorder should never eat!
- Easy and straight-forward daily food plans you can follow
- And many more winning strategies to manage your weight and take control of your life
Wellbutrin should not be taken by anyone who CANNOT afford to lose more than 5% of their body weight. It MUST NOT be used by anyone with anorexia or bulimia.
Note that Wellbutrin is FDA approved for treating major depressive disorder, NOT bipolar depression specifically. However, there is growing belief it is one of the antidepressants LEAST likely to cause a switch into mania.
“Newer, “atypical” antidepressants work differently than other available drugs. Currently, none are approved by the FDA to treat bipolar depression. But some evidence suggests they may play a role in treating depression in bipolar disorder. Studies have shown that Wellbutrin is effective when added to lithium therapy. However, findings are still preliminary.” (From WebMD)
Wellbutrin Prescribing Information
Wellbutrin is an “atypical antidepressant”. It is chemically distinct from other antidepressants.
How is Wellbutrin different?
Wellbutrin is an norepinephrine-dopamine re-uptake inhibitor (NDRI). This means it increases the presence of the neurotransmitters/hormones norepinephrine and dopamine. These affect things like:
This mechanism seems to reflect the main benefits of Wellbutrin. Other NDRI drugs include ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin.
This stimulating quality makes it excellent for helping people to break free from debilitating depression, but can also cause problems such as agitation and sleep disruption, which may be dangerous for folks with bipolar disorder.
So before you consider taking Wellbutrin:
- It is essential to following dosing instructions precisely!
- You MUST tell your doctor about ALL your medication, alcohol drinking, recreational drug use and so on.
Also, side effects of Wellbutrin you should be aware of:
- Changes in appetite
- Dry mouth
- Increased sweating
- Taste changes
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight changes
- Can induce seizures
- MUST NEVER be taken by someone with a history of seizures or in dosages above the daily recommended dose
…So Is It Worth Taking Wellbutrin?
It is worth trying if you suffer from bipolar depression, especially when used in conjunction with a mood stabilizer. However, it is not a good idea to experiment with Wellbutrin if you are already in an episode of bipolar mania.