Anabolic steroids are often abused by those who want to increase their physical performance or enhance their appearance. Therefore, a degree of anxiety about perceived inadequacies is often at the root of the decision to take the drugs.
However, abusing steroids, can cause the user to react to the physical properties of the drug, leading to increased anxiety levels and even drug dependence.
How Steroids Affect Cells and Hormone Levels
Anabolic steroids mimic the actions of the natural hormone testosterone. In muscle cells, they stimulate protein synthesis and promote cell growth. They also block cortisol from binding to muscle cell receptors, which slows muscle breakdown. Over time, the use of steroids reduces levels of a hormone known as allopregnanolone. Since allopregnanolone acts as a natural tranquilizer, lower levels in the body may lead to a more agitated baseline state, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety.
Steroid use can often be associated with a variety of psychiatric conditions. Studies show that regular corticosteroid use in the treatment of respiratory disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic conditions has been associated with euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, personality changes and corticosteroid-induced psychosis.
These conditions have been found in approximately 5 to 18 percent of patients treated with the drugs. The risk of developing these issues is increased with high doses of corticosteroids – 40 mg or more on a daily basis. The risk is reduced when the amount of the drug is reduced.1
Users who began taking anabolic drugs to enhance their physical appearance may be especially distressed by some of the unwanted physical changes steroids can cause.
Some of these changes include the following:
- Shrinking of the testicles and unnatural breast development in males
- Facial hair growth in women
- Baldness in both genders
- Severe acne and delayed growth in teens2
These unwanted physical changes can lead to low self-esteem and anxiety, and users may increase their steroid use to cope. And the anxiety caused by steroid use can continue even after the drugs are stopped.
Signs of Steroid Abuse
As with other types of drug addiction, recognizing the signs of steroid abuse is the first step to getting treatment. Some of these signs include the following:
- Using more of the drug before the next dose is due
- Becoming preoccupied with getting and using the drug
- Needing a supply of the drug on hand at all times
- The appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped
- Engaging in illegal activities, like stealing, to get and use the drug
- Withdrawing from friends and family and losing interest in favorite activities
- Unexplained mood swings, anxiety, aggression or depression
Even one of these symptoms can indicate the presence of steroid abuse or addiction. If you or your loved one is struggling, it’s time to get help.
Breaking the Cycle of Steroid Abuse
Steroid abuse can trap users in a cycle of increasing physical and emotional problems. If you are ready to recover from steroid abuse, call our toll-free helpline now. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about steroid abuse and help you find treatment.
We can also check your insurance coverage to help you understand your benefits. Call 844-675-1221 today to begin your journey of recovery.
1 Zagaria, Mary Ann E. “Systemic Corticosteroid–Associated Psychiatric Adverse Effects.” U.S. Pharmacist. 14 July 2016.
2 “Anabolic Steroids – Abuse, Side Effects and Safety.” Drugs.com. Accessed Sept. 29, 2018.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton