Can steroids cause aggression?
If we look at this question superficially, then the answer would be definitely “Yes.” We all know how animals like male elephants behave in the mating season under the influence of testosterone. Research shows that castrated animals are less aggressive. Similarly, research shows that when animals or birds are given testosterone, they become aggressive.
However, is it right to make such a conclusion based on studies on animals? Surely Not.
If testosterone makes animals aggressive, it does not necessarily mean that it would make humans aggressive.
Animals and bird differ a lot from humans. They are run by instincts, while human behavior is controlled by higher brain centers/intelligence. Humans can learn to control their emotions, feelings of aggression. Humans can strengthen self-control.
Further, it is vital to understand that human reaction to testosterone and other sex hormones differ from animals. Most animals have a mating season when there is a sharp upsurge in sex hormones in their bodies. They need that upsurge and aggressive behavior for mating successfully. Animals are not used to continually high levels of testosterone like humans are.
However, in humans, such seasonal changes do not occur. In human sex hormones have wider functions. They play a role in the formation of relationships. They affect other emotions too. Levels of sex hormones do not necessarily indicate success in sexual relations with the opposite sex.
Yes, testosterone would make people more aggressive. But it is something that is overhyped. Many conclusions were made by seeing the irrational behavior of some of the professional boxers, wrestlers, and players of other similar aggressive forms of sports. However, what many tend to forget that these people were born to be more aggressive, that is why they gained such a success.
Aggression is not purely a negative emotion in humans. Humans can learn to channelize the energy of aggression towards positive sides. Aggressive people may often do better in various sports. People are commonly told in their professional life to be aggressive and take the initiative.
It is not to say that prolonged use of testosterone will not make people aggressive. Most research supports the notion that aggression and extended use of steroids are interconnected. However, what we want to say that not all would become aggressive, and increased aggression would not necessarily translate into unsocial behavior. Although, the risk of unsocial and risky behavior would increase a bit.
Further, it must be understood that the aggressive behavior in men is the result of higher testosterone levels from the very young age. Effects of testosterone on mood would be less profound on grown-up brains.
Another critical fact to consider is that aggressive behavior is the result of androgenic properties of testosterone. However, synthetic steroids differ, they are more anabolic than androgenic. For testosterone ratio of androgenic and anabolic properties is 1:1. But for a synthetic steroid, that ratio varies, which makes them safer.
In short, testosterone makes people more aggressive. But they can learn to channelize that energy towards the positive side. Moreover, such an effect is less pronounced on mature brains, if the substance is not abused for prolonged periods. Finally, synthetic steroids are more anabolic and less androgenic, making them safer in comparison to testosterone.