Some cop gave you a ticket, so you yelled at him nonstop. Some guy catcalled your friend, so you attacked him. Someone accidentally broke your phone, so you threw a temper tantrum. You probably think that it’s the testosterone that’s prompting your aggressive behavior towards other people. After all, blaming your hormones may appear the easy way out. But does testosterone really make you aggressive?
Can Testosterone Cause Aggression? Short Answer: No!
Although testosterone is associated with aggressive behavior for years, this myth doesn’t have scientific evidence to back it up. While a careful review of studies from 1991 asserted that there is an influence of testosterone on animal and human aggression, it fails to confirm that testosterone really causes aggression. Another study fails to pinpoint the causal relationship between the two.
Just like other hormones, testosterone may indeed affect your mood. But it isn’t easy to evaluate the mood effects of testosterone. Nobody can reasonably ascertain that having high levels of testosterone makes you any moody than having normal levels of it.
As a matter of fact, moody men are more likely to have low levels of testosterone instead of high. That’s why they benefit significantly from testosterone therapy. Not only does it improve the symptoms of low testosterone, but it also decreases anxiety and depression. This is backed by one scientific review.
Scientists still need to do more research for us to understand how the hormone or the lack of it directly affects mood. So, the idea that it makes one aggressive is yet, to this point, seems to be mostly more myth than reality. While our belief about what testosterone does may have powerful effects in themselves, these don’t necessarily equate to reality. A study involving 121 correspondents studied the difference between reality and expectations of testosterone’s effect. Some correspondents were given testosterone before playing a game in the study, and some were given a placebo.
To realize the study’s aim, those treated with a placebo were told that they had taken testosterone. Then, those who had actually taken the hormone were unaware. The results are that those who thought they were on testosterone were very aggressive, while those who had actually taken it were very generous and fair while playing the game. From these results, the researchers concluded that it’s a folk hypothesis that the hormone induces aggressive behavior in humans.
Expectations and Social Dominance May Play A Part
Other factors may have a bearing on whether the hormone has anything to do with your aggressive behavior, such as personal expectations, social expectations, and social dominance.
Personal expectations. Your expectations may be at play. You may be more disposed to allow yourself to feel and express your anger. That is, if you made up your mind that it is the hormone supplement that causes your heightened aggression. It is your expectations that influence how you experience that emotion. This is the case of the study mentioned above in which players who were told they had taken testosterone were much more aggressive than those who had actually taken the hormone. These players allow their personal expectations to influence how they experience and express aggression.
So, if you’re taking testosterone boosters, try eliminating the idea that it causes aggression. This mindset can make all the difference.
Social expectations. Social expectations may be at play, too. Men have more testosterone than women, and it is usually men who show aggressive behaviors most often. From this, it’s easy to assume that testosterone makes men angry and mean. In reality, women could be just as aggressive as men. The only difference is that women are socialized to not fully experience or express this emotion, whereas the opposite sex is encouraged to express aggression openly.
Also, women are taught most of their life to be patient, sympathetic, and sensitive to the feelings of others; that’s why they do not react aggressively to external cues and provocation. Some women may fail to not express aggression, as in rare cases where women kill their husbands in the name of self-defense. In general, it’s hard to pinpoint any society where women commit as much aggression as men or show more aggressive behavior than men.
Social dominance. Besides personal and social expectations, social dominance may play a part. A 2017 study involving male members of a rugby team from a Japanese university can back this theory. Researchers had the team members play a series of ultimatum games. But before the games began, researchers tested their saliva for testosterone. The test revealed that senior players have higher levels of testosterone than their subordinates.
The games and players were anonymous, but researchers disclosed the rank of the opponents. The results were interesting. Senior players with more testosterone were low in willingness to acquiesce, while the subordinates with low testosterone were more willing to acquiesce. This supports the theory that high testosterone equates to more dominance.
You Can Relieve Your Aggressive Behavior In Some Ways
Regardless of whether you have low, normal, and high testosterone levels, you may be experiencing more angry feelings than comfortable ones. When you always feel this emotion, it doesn’t take long to cause emotional and physical harm to others. More often than not, aggressive behaviors lead to substance abuse and failed relationships. It is, therefore, vital that you learn to relieve those angry feelings so that you don’t end up causing harm to others.
Talking to a counselor. If you have constant angry feelings, it may be because of PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, and other symptoms of a mental health problem. It could also be that you’ve never learned how to deal with your anger positively. Whether it’s because of a mental health problem or not, talking to a counselor is an excellent way to learn how to deal with your anger issues.
For some, the thought of opening up to someone in person can be extremely anxiety-provoking. If this is you, you can opt to see an online therapist. A 2014 study regarding online therapy found out that online treatment plans reduced the symptoms in people with anger issues. In order to address these issues, the online therapist finds out and understands the triggers of anger.
Assuming the best intentions whenever possible. To the degree that you believed the police officer’s motives for giving you a ticket were aimed at showing arrogance, then your anger increases. When you dwell on the thought that police officers today are extremely rude and abusive of their authority, it takes no time to yell and curse at them. But, if you dwell on the thought that the officer doesn’t really want to give you a ticket, only that it’s his job, your anger may go down. You can also choose to assume that the officer just made a mistake, and you will have to talk it out.
Before acting on your angry feelings, try to consider the best intentions from people. This way, you can deal with anyone much more calmly and effectively. What’s more, this technique saves you from more unnecessary trouble.
Again, testosterone doesn’t cause aggression. If you’re talking testosterone boosters, these will not make you aggressive. However, you may want to consult with your doctor before taking these boosters.