Can Steroids Cause Bipolar Disorder?

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The Relationship Between Manic Depression and Steroid Medications

What Are Steroids?

There are two main types of steroid drugs: anabolic steroids and corticosteroids. Anabolic steroids are illegal, injectable drugs that are infamously abused by athletes and bodybuilders to increase their body mass or physical strength. Corticosteroids, on the other hand, are more common medications that are prescribed to individuals with a variety of different conditions. 

Corticosteroids are synthetic medications that are very similar to the natural hormone cortisol, which our body produces regularly. When people don’t have enough cortisol in their body due to a certain condition, they may require this type of prescription medicine. Corticosteroids can be used to treat hives, asthma, emphysema, tendonitis, ulcerative colitis, insect bites, nasal allergies, eczema, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and other physical disorders or complications. 

Prescription steroids may come in the form of tablets, inhalers, nasal sprays, injections, or creams. They are typically not dangerous if used once or according to dosage, but can cause certain complications after heavy or long-term use. 

Side Effects of Steroids

First, steroids have the ability to reduce the activity of the immune system. This means that it is easier for people who use corticosteroids to get common illnesses because their immune system is slightly weaker. These medications also have the ability to cause muscle spasms.

If someone suddenly stops using steroids or drastically decreases their dosage, they may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms could include headaches, fatigue, anorexia, muscle and joint pain, decreased libido, depression, suicidal ideation, and more. 

Finally, people who take corticosteroids are at risk for developing serious mental complications like aggression, mania, depression, and psychosis. This is because these medications have the potential to induce psychiatric symptoms and cause or worsen illnesses like bipolar disorder. 

Steroids & Bipolar Disorder

There is a strong connection between steroids and manic depression (bipolar disorder). When someone uses corticosteroids for an extended period of time, they may be at risk for experiencing mood disturbances and psychosis that are associated with the mental health condition. If someone has a history of depression or bipolar disorder, it is likely that using steroids will cause their previous symptoms to return and potentially get worse. 

How to Treat Bipolar Disorder

If you use steroids for any condition and experience symptoms of bipolar disorder, talk to your doctor as soon as possible to discuss next steps. They will create a plan to help you gradually taper off your medication if they believe it is the best choice for you. If you stop taking steroids or suddenly decrease your dosage, you may experience intense withdrawal symptoms.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder could possibly be reversed after someone stops using steroids. Whether or not symptoms persist depend on the patient’s access to treatment and willingness to participate. In some cases, a doctor may require their patient to receive treatment for psychiatric symptoms. The most popular and successful treatments for bipolar disorder are certain medications (NSAIDs or antidepressants) and therapy with a psychiatrist. Other treatment options may include group counseling, support meetings, and educational resources.

Do you think that you or someone you love has developed symptoms of bipolar disorder after taking prescription steroids? Our team of mental health representatives is happy to not only answer all of your questions, but offer treatment options that suit your budget and your needs. Give us a call at 215-714-6027 or send us an email at to get started. 


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