Lorne Jaffe, a stay-at-home dad and blogger for the Huffington Post describes life with gynecomastia, a condition in which adolescent boys grow breasts, this way: “I grew up a seemingly normal, slightly chubby boy who by age 11 had a chest resembling a partially-deflated blow-up doll’s, sagging breasts, one noticeably larger than the other, huge areolas. For the next 18 years I wore dark, oversized clothing and walked with hunched shoulders, thumbs pushing out my shirt bottom to keep my upper body formless, using anything I could (pillow, notebook, rolled-up jacket) as a shield to deflect imagined prying eyes. I lived in a state of unremitting shame, constantly aware of my body.”
Two surgeries and decades later, Jaffe writes that he still feels emotional pain and humiliation. While surgery at age 29 helped to gradually build his confidence, “my contentment was short-lived,” he writes. “I suffered a severe nervous breakdown resulting in months of stuttering, tremors, hyperventilating, a facial tic and massive crying episodes. Despite being in therapy and on antidepressants for years, I never dealt with my past. My therapist and I discussed how gynecomastia played the biggest role in my continuing anxiety and clinical depression. While family, school, and my body betrayed me, the latter imprisoned me during my most vulnerable time of life — adolescence — the period where one forms their identity. I became ‘The Boy With Breasts’ and that self-inflicted brand never left my mind.”
Jaffe continues to work through his lingering anxiety and depression as a result of living with gynecomastia. He shares his story to help others understand how devastating the condition can be to boys and young men.
Gynecomastia, he explains, affects about half of adolescent boys though it usually corrects over time. Boys whose condition lingers into adulthood often require surgery such as liposuction or mastectomy to remove the breasts.
“Surgery remains the best ‘cure’ (the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported a 103.6 percent increase in gynecomastia surgeries between 1997 and 2012), but many cannot afford the generally uninsured $3,000-$5,000 cost. Others may be too self-conscious to seek help,” Jaffe writes.
There are numerous causes including obesity, steroid abuse, chromosomal disorders and hormonal imbalances. There is also mounting evidence that the antipsychotic drug Riserdal (risperidone) can cause young boys to develop the condition. Johnson & Johnson and its unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals, makers of Risperdal, currently face hundreds of lawsuits claiming the company did not adequately warn doctors or the public of Risperdal side effects, including gynecomastia.
Jaffe urges parents to look for signs of the deformity in their young boys – hunched shoulders, baggy clothes, refusal to take off shirts or take part in anything involving movement, and hiding his chest behind objects. “Know that gynecomastia can be and should be corrected for your child’s sanity. Show them nothing but love and understanding because if found and fixed early, you might save your child from years of bullying and mental anguish, from clinical depression and anxiety disorders.”
Source: Huffington Post