Can Wellbutrin be used for OCD? (3 indications)

In this article, we will discuss whether Wellbutrin can be used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Additionally, we will also talk about the research findings, what is OCD, how is it treated, and pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for OCD. 

Can Wellbutrin be used for OCD?

No, Wellbutrin cannot be used in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Wellbutrin is approved by the FDA for use in adult depression, seasonal affective disorder, and smoking cessation. 

Wellbutrin may also be used to treat anti-depressant-induced sexual dysfunction, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression associated with bipolar disorder, and obesity (1).

What does research suggest?

In a research study, Wellbutrin was administered to a group of patients to evaluate whether Wellbutrin could help patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Researchers tested it on 12 patients with OCD for 8 weeks, measuring their OCD symptoms. 

The results of this study showed that Wellbutrin did not improve OCD symptoms. However, a few patients’ OCD symptoms got worse (2). Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that affects specific neurotransmitters in the brain, such as norepinephrine and dopamine.

Wellbutrin mainly regulates dopamine, which is involved in pleasure and motivation. Wellbutrin also has a mild effect on nicotinic and serotonin receptors, which are related to mood, sleep, stress response, and other brain functions (1).

What is OCD and how is it treated?

OCD is characterized by unwanted thoughts, leading patients to take specific actions to reduce such thoughts. Patients may develop various fears, including fear of harm from others, which involve them repeatedly checking and engaging in similar behaviours. Such behaviours can significantly affect a patient’s life.   

To diagnose obsessive-compulsive disorder, doctors examine the patients for certain signs and symptoms, such as unwanted thoughts and actions to relieve the stress. Some symptoms of OCD may remain even after treatment and about 30% of OCD patients do not respond well to treatment. If left untreated, OCD can lead to poor quality of life and patients feel socially isolated (3). 

Pharmacological treatment for OCD

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Citalopram and Sertraline, have proven effective in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and are considered the first-line treatment which can help more than half of OCD patients.

However, some OCD patients do not respond well to the first-line treatment, so doctors may recommend using higher doses of SSRIs or adding antipsychotic medications (4).  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following medications for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD):

  • Paroxetine (Paxil) – for adults only
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)- for adults and children aged 6 years and above
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)- for adults and children aged 7 years and above 
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)- for adults and children aged 8 years and above 
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)- for adults and children aged 10 years and above 

It is important to note that not all FDA-approved medications for OCD treatment may be appropriate for you. Your doctor will evaluate your current symptoms, family or medical history, and response to the treatment (5).

Non-pharmacological treatment for OCD

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps patients with OCD to recognize unusual thoughts, face their fears, and develop more helpful thoughts and behaviours. CBT is effective for many mental health issues like OCD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more.

CBT can also be used alongside medication for severe conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. CBT is based on how our thoughts, emotions, and actions are connected. CBT focuses on an individual’s reactions to events, unusual thinking patterns, beliefs, and assumptions.

CBT is a therapy where the patient is guided to change negative thought patterns and behaviours. Each session starts with an examination of the patient’s mood and setting goals for therapy. CBT is used to treat various problems, and therapists customize it for each patient’s needs. It is often combined with medication for better results (3). 


In my opinion, Wellbutrin can not be used for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as it is not approved by the FDA for this indication. Additionally, research studies do not support the use of Wellbutrin in improving OCD symptoms.

However, it may worsen OCD symptoms in some patients. The first-line treatments for OCD include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Always consult with your doctor before taking any medicine for your specific condition. 

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