How does Effexor help bulimia? (+1 mechanism)

In this article, we will explore how Effexor helps with the treatment of bulimia, the effects of neurotransmitters on the patient of bulimia, what factors influence the efficacy of Effexor for bulimia and how to manage the condition while taking Effexor.

How does Effexor help bulimia?

Effexor (venlafaxine) helps with bulimia by increasing serotonin and norepinephrine levels. This causes a reduction in cravings and improves mood and self-esteem (1).  Effexor is an antidepressant. It can be used to treat a condition called bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by binge eating. Effexor is used with psychotherapy to treat this condition. 

Effexor is not FDA-approved for the treatment of bulimia. However, Effexor is thought to help bulimia by:

  • Increased serotonin and norepinephrine levels (2)
  • Reduced cravings
  • Improve mood and self-esteem 

It is important to note that Effexor should only be prescribed by a professional healthcare provider and its use in the treatment of bulimia would typically be a part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may include psychotherapy, nutritional counselling and other therapeutic interventions. 

How do increased neurotransmitter levels help with bulimia?

Increased levels of neurotransmitters, notably serotonin and norepinephrine can potentially assist in the treatment of bulimia nervosa by addressing the underlying psychological and emotional factors associated with the disorder (3).

Effexor can cause this increase in the neurotransmitter level. It can be helpful for the treatment of Bulimia in the following ways.

Mood regulation

Serotonin plays an important role in mood regulation (4). Low serotonin levels are often linked to mood disorders like depression, anxiety and mood instability. Individuals with bulimia frequently experience emotional distress, self-esteem issues and low mood which can lead to binge-eating and purging behaviour (5). 

Medications that increase serotonin levels by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin such as Effexor (an SNRI) may help stabilize moods and reduce emotional triggers for these behaviours. 

Control of impulses

Norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter is involved in regulating mood and arousal (6). Enhanced norepinephrine levels may improve impulse control and reduce the urge to engage in impulsive binge-eating and purging behaviours, often driven by intense emotions.

Anxiety reduction 

Many individuals with bulimia also grapple with heightened levels of anxiety which can exacerbate the disorder (7). Medications that elevate neurotransmitter levels, particularly serotonin can alleviate anxiety symptoms and make it easier for individuals to manage their anxiety without resorting to disordered eating behaviour.

Effexor belongs to the class of drugs that increase the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain.

What is the success rate of Effexor in treating bulimia?

In 2002, some researchers tested the effects of venlafaxine on the binge-eating. The study concluded that venlafaxine may be an effective treatment for binge eating associated with obesity. 83% of patients received venlafaxine as a monotherapy for the treatment of binge-eating.

The drug showed its side effects including dry mouth, insomnia, nausea and sexual dysfunctions, yet it was well tolerated for the treatment of this eating disorder (8). 

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the only antidepressants effective for the treatment of bulimia nervosa (9). Antidepressants, however, can be more effective in treating bulimia as the majority of patients with bulimia develop depression (10). Treating depression can help some of these patients and lower the mental stress that may have led them to bulimia. 

What factors affect the efficiency of Effexor for bulimia?

Effexor is used to treat anxiety, depression and in some cases bulimia nervosa. Several factors can influence the efficiency of Effexor for bulimia. These factors may include:

  • Individual response: The effectiveness of Effexor for bulimia varies among different individuals because of individual sensitivity and variations. Genetics and the difference between metabolic rate plays an important role in the case of individual sensitivity.


  • Concurrent medical conditions: If individuals with bulimia have other conditions like depression or anxiety, the impact of Effexor may extend to addressing these comorbidities potentially enhancing its efficacy.


  • Dose and duration:  The prescribed dosage and treatment duration are determined by a healthcare provider, and significantly impact the medication’s effectiveness.


  • Medication tolerance: Tolerance to Effexor may develop over time, potentially reducing its effectiveness. Healthcare providers may adjust the dose or explore alternative treatment options in such cases.


  • Side effects: Susceptibility to certain side effects of the drugs can also be a factor that may affect the outcome of the treatment plan. Effexor, like all the other medications, has its own list of side effects. These side effects are common to all patients whether with bulimia or not. These may include (2):
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Weight gain
    • Decreased libido
    • Dry mouth
    • Sweating
    • Insomnia
    • Headache
    • Anxiety
    • Restlessness
    • Tremors
    • Blurred vision
    • Skin rash or allergy

Some people may experience these side effects while others may not. Individuals with bulimia and their healthcare providers need to weigh the potential benefits to risks of the medication for the patient. The decision to use Effexor for bulimia should be weighed carefully and the patient should be closely monitored for any signs of adverse effects. 

How to manage bulimia while taking Effexor?

It is important to note that Effexor is not a curative solution for bulimia. Here are a few tips to manage bulimia while taking Effexor:

  • Eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day. This will reduce cravings by maintaining blood sugar levels.


  • Avoid foods that trigger your binge eating. High-fat or high-sugar foods should be avoided.


  • Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and regular exercise should be opted for managing stress and anxiety in a healthy way.


  • Pharmacotherapies alone cannot assure a 100% cure. Psychotherapies are to be combined with medications for better results (8). 


  • Cultivating a robust support system can be helpful. Understanding friends and family can offer emotional support that can provide motivation for the patient to recover fast.


  • Maintaining open and honest communication with the healthcare provider is essential. 


In my opinion, Effexor can be helpful in treating patients with bulimia nervosa. However, it is important to note that Effexor does not guarantee a permanent cure as the condition is related to psychological effects. Psychotherapies along with Effexor can be more helpful for the patient as compared to drug treatment alone.  

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!



Malhotra S, King KH, Welge JA, Brusman-Lovins L, McElroy SL. Venlafaxine treatment of binge-eating disorder associated with obesity: a series of 35 patients. J Clin Psychiatry. 2002 Sep;63(9):802-6. doi: 10.4088/jcp.v63n0909. PMID: 12363121.


Singh, D. (2022, October 10). Venlafaxine. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf.


Avena, N. M., & Bocarsly, M. E. (2012). Dysregulation of brain reward systems in eating disorders: neurochemical information from animal models of binge eating, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa. Neuropharmacology, 63(1), 87–96.


Cowen, P. J., & Browning, M. (2015). What has serotonin to do with depression?. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 14(2), 158–160.


Moncrieff, J., Cooper, R., Stockmann, T., Amendola, S., Hengartner, M. P., & Horowitz, M. (2022, July 20). The serotonin theory of depression: a systematic umbrella review of the evidence. Molecular Psychiatry; Springer Nature.


Moret, C., & Briley, M. (2011). The importance of norepinephrine in depression. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 7(Suppl 1), 9–13.


Levinson, C. A., Zerwas, S., Calebs, B., Forbush, K., Kordy, H., Watson, H., Hofmeier, S., Levine, M., Crosby, R. D., Peat, C., Runfola, C. D., Zimmer, B., Moesner, M., Marcus, M. D., & Bulik, C. M. (2017). The core symptoms of bulimia nervosa, anxiety, and depression: A network analysis. Journal of abnormal psychology, 126(3), 340–354.


Malhotra, S., King, K. H., Welge, J. A., Brusman-Lovins, L., & McElroy, S. L. (2002, September 15). Venlafaxine Treatment of Binge-Eating Disorder Associated With Obesity. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry; Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.


Crow, S. J. (2021). Bulimia Nervosa in Adults: Pharmacotherapy. UpToDate.


Mischoulon, D., Eddy, K. T., Keshaviah, A., Dinescu, D., Ross, S. L., Kass, A. E., Franko, D. L., & Herzog, D. B. (2011). Depression and eating disorders: treatment and course. Journal of Affective Disorders, 130(3), 470–477.


Walsh BT, Wilson GT, Loeb KL, Devlin MJ, Pike KM, Roose SP, Fleiss J, Waternaux C. Medication and psychotherapy in the treatment of bulimia nervosa. Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Apr;154(4):523-31. doi: 10.1176/ajp.154.4.523. PMID: 9090340.

Find a supportive therapist who can help with Depression.

Discover the convenience of BetterHelp, an online therapy platform connecting you with licensed and accredited therapists specialized in addressing issues such as depression, anxiety, relationships, and more. Complete the assessment and find your ideal therapist within just 48 hours.


AskYourPharm is user-supported. We may earn a commission if you sign up for BetterHelp’s services after clicking through from this site