Can Buspar Cause Weight Gain?

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
July 8, 2022

If you frequently experience anxiety, you’re not alone. Roughly 19.1% of U.S. adults have an anxiety disorder. 

Based on clinical studies that have been conducted on the anti-anxiety medication – Buspar, weight gain is one side effect that can occur. Very few people experience this effect, however.

This article will cover Buspar’s impact on weight gain and weight loss, side effects, and when to see a medical professional about issues relating to this drug.

What is Buspar (Buspirone)?

Buspar, also called buspirone hydrochloride (HCL), is a generic drug people take to combat anxiety.

It also helps people relax, worry less, and think more clearly.

What Does it Treat?

Buspar is a commonly-prescribed anxiolytic medication used to treat anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

More than 10 million Americans use Buspar to treat their anxiety, as well as physical symptoms of anxiety such as fear, tension, irritability, and dizziness.

Those with an anxiety disorder or who experience anxiety can have any of the following symptoms:

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Tenseness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • A feeling of impending doom or danger
  • Trembling
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Difficulty with concentration and sleeping
  • Stomachaches and headaches
  • An urge to avoid activities that trigger anxiety

Buspar is a daily, commonly prescribed in addition to other drugs you may already be taking, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are frequently prescribed to treat depression.

While benzodiazepines like Xanax have sedative and muscle-relaxing effects in treating anxiety, Buspar doesn’t. 

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Can Buspar Cause Weight Gain?

Just between 0.1 and 1% of the people who use Buspar medication experience weight gain.

Most people who take the drug won’t experience a clinically relevant gain or loss in weight, which is defined as a 7% weight change from their baseline weight.

During an anxiety attack, there are a number of symptoms that you may experience, which can lead to weight gain. These include:

  • Increased cortisol levels
  • Fat deposit in the stomach
  • More fat depositions, resulting in adiposity (being overweight)
  • Recovery from loss of appetite during anxiety

Can Buspar Cause Weight Loss? 

Just as anxiety can cause you to eat more, it can also cause you to eat less.

Anxiety symptoms such as low appetite and decreased metabolism can result in weight loss.

A change in weight is more likely to be due to the anxiety you’re experiencing, rather than as a side effect of Buspar.

If you’re already overweight, weight loss may be an indirect side effect of using Buspar to treat anxiety.

If you’ve been turning to food as a coping mechanism for anxiety and using Buspar has proven to be effective in treating it, the need to overeat would lessen. Subsequently, weight loss may occur.

Additionally, adverse effects of Buspar, such as nausea and mild stomach aches, could result in weight loss. 

Vomiting and diarrhea from the use of the medication could result in water loss and, consequently, weight loss.

Other Factors That Can Cause Weight Gain

Although Buspar is unlikely to contribute directly to weight gain, other effects of improving anxiety may explain why you see a change in weight. These include:

  • Mood changes
  • Improvement of cognitive function
  • Hormonal changes affecting prolactin and growth hormone
  • Change in resting metabolic rate 

Side Effects

Side effects of taking Buspar include:

  • Nervousness or restlessness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

1-10% of people who take Buspar also experience side effects such as:

If you have a condition that affects the functioning of your liver, your liver may not be able to break down Buspar effectively, and this will lead to unwanted side effects.

If you have kidney problems, your body may not be able to excrete the drug properly. 

To avoid preventable, unwanted side effects, tell your doctor about any medications or supplements that you’re taking to make sure that they won’t interact with Buspar.

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When to See a Medical Professional

Before you take Buspar, a doctor will need to review your medical history to ensure that you don’t have any contraindications to taking Buspar, such as an allergy or hypersensitivity to the drug. 

If you have diabetes, your doctor may choose not to prescribe Buspar since the drug can affect blood glucose levels.

Speak with your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or faintness after taking the medication.

Similarly, talk with a doctor if you’ve experienced an anxiety attack with any of these symptoms:

  • Feelings of danger, panic, or dread
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or severe chills
  • Nervousness or restlessness
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Difficulty with focusing and concentration
  • Hyperventilation

If you overdose and experience any of the following symptoms, call the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222.

Buspar overdoses have not resulted in any reported deaths, but symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach

How K Health Can Help

Think you might need a prescription for buspar (buspirone)?

K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine if citalopram is right for you.

Get started with our free assessment, which will tell you in minutes if treatment could be a good fit. If yes, we’ll connect you right to a clinician who can prescribe medication and have it shipped right to your door.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Buspar Affect Your Appetite?
Buspar can indirectly lead to weight gain through changes to your eating habits as your anxiety improves. An increased appetite is a noted side effect of Busparin in less than 1% of cases, but when it does occur, it can lead to more frequent or larger meals, thus contributing to weight gain. Clinical trials on the use of Buspar in people with Autism to reduce irritability demonstrated that increased appetite was actually one of the more common side effects in that population. To lower the chances of losing or gaining while taking Buspar, be conscious of your eating habits while on the medication. Track the number of calories you consume each day to help determine if you’re eating the right amount of food to achieve the appropriate body mass.
Does Buspar Affect Metabolism?
Stress and anxiety can lead to weight loss by changing your appetite and metabolism. Your body’s cortisol levels rise in response to stress, potentially increasing your appetite and increasing fat (adipose) buildup in the stomach. This can ultimately lead to weight gain (adiposity).
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.

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