Do steroids cause depression?
If you are familiar with the fitness industry and especially with the bodybuilding community, you might notice that suicide is quite prevalent. This could just be a cognitive bias, but what does the science say?
Depression most commonly occurs not whilst one is one a steroid cycle but commonly when a steroid cycle is discontinued. Rates of depression are higher if the cycle was long, and the doses were high.
The proposed mechanism is that exogenous steroids inhibit natural hormone production because the body realizes that there are too many circulating hormones in the system. When these drugs are discontinued, low androgen (hormone) occur. This is called hypogonadism. Hypogonadism is associated with insomnia and especially depression. Scientists have dubbed the term “Anabolic Steroid Withdrawal Depression.” This persists as long as the body is in this low hormone state and until natural hormones begin to be produced again.
One way to treat this kind of depression is through the initiation of a Post Cycle Therapy (which will be mentioned in a separate article). Post Cycle Therapies attempt to stimulate and sensitize the entire hormone system in attempts to aid in natural hormone production. The best way to know if hormones are low is through blood tests. If this depression persists after Post Cycle therapy and normal hormone levels, then it would be advisable to seek medical attention for further analysis of the problem.
Another common phenomenon is having depression whilst on a steroid cycle. This occurs when there is an imbalance in hormones mostly with regards to oestrogen levels. When using a steroid that does not convert to oestrogen and is not coupled with a testosterone base, oestrogen levels will be low and so will testosterone levels and this will lead to hypogonadism even whilst on cycle and places those at risk of depression. Addition of testosterone to a cycle causing depression, may alleviate these symptoms.
There are rare instances of steroid use being causally linked to steroid use however the connection is difficult to make without prior mental health records of the individual.
It has been postulated that if one is at risk for depression (previous episodes or runs in the family), that steroids will exacerbate the issue. It is advisable for those at risk of poor mental health outcomes to avoid steroids or ensure they have an adequate support structure before deciding to use anabolic steroids.
In conclusion, it does appear that steroid use may cause (if not, may contribute to) depression and possibly suicide. If you yourself or someone you know is in need of help do not hesitate to contact your relevant suicide hotlines in your country.