Introduction and Aims
Emerging research suggests that the sub‐population of anabolic–androgenic steroid (AAS) users who experience physical appearance concerns may suffer greater psychological dysfunction than other sub‐populations, including users with athletic or occupational concerns. Thus, among current AAS users, we sought to determine whether, and to what extent, social physique anxiety—an established measure of appearance concern—was associated with psychological dysfunction.
Design and Methods
Interviews were conducted with a sample of 74 male AAS users living in Australia. Users completed self‐report instruments of the severity of AAS dependence, depression, hazardous and risky drinking, use of non‐AAS illicit drugs, psychological side‐effects due to AAS use and abnormal test results due to AAS use.
Multivariate analyses revealed that greater social physique anxiety was uniquely associated with more severe symptoms of both AAS dependence and depression. Moreover, the effect size of these relationships was large. Social physique anxiety was not associated with hazardous or risky drinking, non‐AAS illicit drug use, psychological side‐effects or abnormal test results.
Discussion and Conclusions
Limitations notwithstanding, the study is consistent with the notion that AAS users who experience appearance concerns are at heightened risk of co‐morbid psychological dysfunction. Given trends indicating an increase in the prevalence of AAS use in Australia and elsewhere, the findings suggest that health‐care systems may need to consider prioritising the sub‐population of AAS users who experience appearance concerns. Further investigation of the clinical syndrome of AAS dependence is required, including its relation to body image and eating disorders.