Anabolic androgenic steroid dependence is associated with impaired emotion recognition
Illicit use of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) has grown into a serious public health concern throughout the Western World. AAS use is associated with adverse medical, psychological, and social consequences. Around 30% of AAS users develop a dependence syndrome with sustained use despite adverse side effects. AAS dependence is associated with a high frequency of intra- and interpersonal problems, and it is central to identify factors related to the development and maintenance of dependence.
The present study investigated the ability to recognize emotion from biological motion. The emotional biological motion task was administered to male AAS dependent users (AAS dependents; n = 45), AAS non-dependent users (AAS non-dependents; n = 38) and a comparison-group of non-using weightlifters (non-users; n = 69).
Multivariate analysis of variance showed a general impairment in emotion recognition in AAS dependents, compared to the non-using weightlifters, whereas no significant impairment was observed in AAS non-dependents. Furthermore, AAS dependents showed impaired recognition of fearful stimuli compared to both AAS non-dependents and non-using weightlifters. The between-group effect remained significant after controlling for Intelligence Quotient (IQ), past 6 months of non-AAS drug use, antisocial personality problems, anxiety, and depression.
AAS dependents show impaired emotion recognition from body movement, fear in particular, which could potentially contribute to higher frequency of interpersonal problems and antisocial behaviors in this population.
KeywordsAnabolic androgenic steroids Testosterone Dependence Social cognition Body language Emotion processing Emotion recognition
This research was funded by grants 2013087 and 2016049 (Dr Bjørnebekk) from the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority, and internal research grants from the Division on Mental Health and Addiction (Dr Bjørnebekk).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The founding organizations had no role in the design or conduct of the study; in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data; or in the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.
- Achenbach TM, Rescorla LA (2003) Manual for the ASEBA Adult forms and profiles. University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth & Families, BurlingtonGoogle Scholar
- Bertozzi G et al (2017) The role of anabolic androgenic steroids in disruption of the physiological function in discrete areas of the central nervous system. Mol Neurobiol:1–9Google Scholar
- Booth A, Johnson DR, Granger DA (1999) Testosterone and men’s depression: the role of social behavior. J Health Soc Behav:130–140Google Scholar
- First MB, Gibbon M, Spitzer RL, Benjamin LS (1997) User’s guide for the structured clinical interview for DSM-IV axis II personality disorders: SCID-II. American Psychiatric Pub, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- Heffernan T, Battersby L, Bishop P, O’Neill T (2015) Everyday memory deficits associated with anabolic-androgenic steroid use in regular gymnasium users. The Open Psychiatry Journal 9:1–6Google Scholar
- Kanayama G, Brower KJ, Wood RI, Hudson JI, Pope M Jr, Harrison G (2009b) Issues for DSM-V: clarifying the diagnostic criteria for anabolic-androgenic steroid dependence. Am Psychiatric Assoc, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
- Kanayama G, Pope HG, Hudson JI (2018) Associations of anabolic-androgenic steroid use with other behavioral disorders: an analysis using directed acyclic graphs Psychol Med 48(15):2601–2608Google Scholar
- Keverne EB, Martel FL, Nevison CM (1996) Primate brain evolution: genetic and functional considerations, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B, vol 1371. The Royal Society, London, pp 689–696Google Scholar
- Pope H, Katz D (2003) Psychiatric effects of exogenous anabolic-androgenic steroids. In: Psychoneuroendocrinology: the scientific basis of clinical practice. American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DC, pp 331–358Google Scholar
- Sagoe D, Pallesen S (2018) Androgen abuse epidemiology current opinion in endocrinology. Diabetes and Obesity 25:185–194Google Scholar
- Vaskinn A, Lagerberg TV, Bjella TD, Simonsen C, Andreassen OA, Ueland T, Sundet K (2017) Impairment in emotion perception from body movements in individuals with bipolar I and bipolar II disorder is associated with functional capacity. Int J Bipolar Disord 5:13CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- WADA (2016) WADA Technical Document - TD2016EAAS. (W.1.E.). https://www.wada-ama.org/en/resources/science-medicine/td2018eaas-0. Accessed 08.12 2018
- Wechsler D (1999) Manual for the Wechsler abbreviated intelligence scale (WASI). The Psychological Corporation, San AntonioGoogle Scholar