What Are the Negative Effects of Steroids?

Using illegal steroids involves many risk factors and negative side effects. The drugs impact your body both mentally and physically. Many steroid users don’t realize the negative changes in their bodies until after they have become severe, and by then it takes longer to reverse these issues. Some damaging effects of steroids can only be reversed through medical care.


While many steroid users think they are bulking up due to muscle gain, much of this gain can be attributed to water retention and bloating. Steroids do lead to an increase in muscle size and strength. However, the increase in muscular strength and size is not as drastic or dramatic as the user believes. This “bulking” can contribute to the mental effects of steroids. Since the user believes he is increasing in strength very rapidly, he will feel that his power over others and even his own body has increased as well, which can lead to violent acts or the tendency to put himself in risky situations.

Mental Side Effects

Steroids can cause psychosis (a break from reality), mania and depression. At one point in time steroid users may feel down on themselves and want to hide from the world; the next minute they may feel totally empowered and invincible. This break with reality and mania often leads to violence if the steroid user feels challenged or threatened. Insomnia is a common mental side effect among steroid users, who may proceed to abuse other drugs to combat this.

Reproductive Side Effects

Reproductive effects of steroid use are the most severe of all side effects. Men experience infertility with steroid use. The testicles may shrink, leading to a reduced sperm count and increased risk of prostate cancer. Men may also experience increased breast development and baldness. In a woman, the negative effects include developing many male-attributed characteristics such as a deeper voice. A woman’s clitoris may increase in size as well. Hair may grow in unusual places on the female body and baldness may occur on top of her head. Also, women may experience amenorrhea, or changes in their monthly menstrual cycles. These side effects can be reversed, but treatment by a doctor is necessary.

About this Author

Whitney Hooley is beginning her career as a writer. She has a bachelor’s degree in religion and psychology as well as a master’s degree in kinesiology. Hooley is also an ACSM-certified personal trainer and a former NCAA Division I swim coach.