Theory of mind in users of anabolic androgenic steroids

Theory of mind in users of anabolic androgenic steroids / Anja Vaskinn, Lisa E. Hauger, Astrid Bjørnebekk. - (Psychopharmacology (2020) 5 July; p. 1-9)

  • PMID: 32623552
  • DOI: 10.1007/s00213-020-05603-y


Rationale: Anabolic androgenic steroids are used to improve physical performance or increase lean muscle mass. About one-third of users develop a dependency syndrome, which is characterized by elevated rates of psychopathology, cognitive impairments, and aggressive and antisocial behaviors. The mechanisms behind these intra- and interpersonal problems are not known.

Objective: To examine theory of mind (ToM), i.e., the ability to infer the mental state of others, in users of anabolic androgenic steroids. Reduced ToM may be one factor underlying the interpersonal problems that have been reported with prolonged use of anabolic androgenic steroids.

Methods: The Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition (MASC) was used to assess ToM. Study participants were male/female weightlifters who used anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS, n = 34/9), who were dependent on anabolic androgenic steroids (AASdep, n = 44/7), and a non-using weightlifting comparison group (WLC, n = 69/16).

Results: Analyses of variance showed that the AASdep group performed significantly worse than the WLC group, for all MASC measures (total ToM, cognitive ToM, affective ToM, overmentalizing/undermentalizing errors). Sex and sex x group interaction effects were non-significant.

Conclusions: Male and female weightlifters who were dependent on anabolic androgenic steroids had impaired ToM. Their reduced social cognition may be one contributing factor to the elevated rates of antisocial behavior reported in this population.

Original document


Research / Study
5 July 2020
Bjørnebekk, Astrid
Hauger, Lisa E.
Vaskinn, Anja
Weightlifting (IWF) - International Weightlifting Federation
Other organisations
Oslo universitetssykehus HF - Oslo University Hospital
Universitetet i Oslo - University of Oslo
Doping classes
S1. Anabolic Agents
Medical terms
Addiction / dependence
Mental disorders
Document category
Scientific article
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Pdf file
Date generated
2 September 2020
Date of last modification
2 December 2021
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