Scientific Reports has published new insight into the dangers posed by the use of steroids among male athletes. This time, researchers found that bodybuilders with a history of steroid use were more likely to exhibit psychotic tendencies, sexual and substance abuse risk-taking behaviors, and anger issues.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids are human-created variations of testosterone, the male sex hormone. Steroids have been linked to a wide spectrum of health problems, including dependency, medical issues, and psychological difficulties. Psychological studies have discovered that steroids may induce structural changes in the brain, and affect cognitive function.
A research team headed by Bryan S. Nelson sought to investigate a lesser-explored topic — the possibility of anabolic steroids and psychopathy. Psychopathy is a personality disorder defined by a lack of empathy, low emotional intelligence, and antisocial behavior. An increasing number of studies have shown links between anabolic steroids and psychopathy, and even violent crime.
Nelson and his colleagues investigated whether steroid use was associated with psychopathic tendencies and other trouble-prone behaviors such as risk-taking, anger issues, and cognitive impairments in a cross-sectional study among male bodybuilders.
The researchers conducted an online survey among 492 male bodybuilders with an average age of 22. The men reported any previous use of Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs), and their eating habits. They also indicated whether they had experienced various psychological illnesses (e.g., depression, mood swings, aggression) and whether they had engaged in certain risk-taking behaviors (e.g., unprotected sex, drinking alcohol).
Bodybuilders with a history of steroid use were more than twice as likely to exhibit psychotic traits than those without a history of steroid use. They were also almost twice as likely to engage in sexual risk-taking, almost twice as likely to report anger problems, and more than twice as likely to report physical difficulties.
Bodybuilders who had not used anabolic steroids but had considered it were more likely to exhibit psychotic traits, substance abuse or sexual risk-taking, anger issues, emotional stability issues, depressive symptoms, and impulsivity when compared to bodybuilders who had never considered using anabolic steroids.
Bodybuilders had a 19% increased likelihood of experiencing psychopathy traits for every additional dosage of APED they used.
The findings suggest that the use of steroids has been linked to an increased risk of psychopathic tendencies, although the authors argue that this correlation is unclear. While steroids may contribute to psychopathy, it might also be that psychopathy contributes to the use of steroids.
Psychopathic tendencies, according to the authors, may be an important mechanism for the use of steroids to treat anger issues, although further research is needed. With longitudinal studies, researchers may also be able to unravel the connection between steroid usage and psychopathy.
Bryan S. Nelson, Tom Hildebrandt, and Pascal Wallisch co-authored a research titled "Anabolic–androgenic steroid use is associated with anxiety, risktaking, anger, and physical limitations."