“My last resort is to f—ing chop the thing(s) off,” a young man who calls himself Spiderman posted to a forum on the subject of gynecomastia, a medical condition in which men grow female breasts.
Gynecomastia occurs when the male body produces too much estrogen, triggering breast growth. It is generally caused by weight gain, but some medications can cause gynecomatia. The antipsychotic Risperdal, for example, has been shown in studies to trigger the production of prolactin, the hormone that causes new mothers to lactate, and that can cause boys and young men to grow breasts.
Gynecomastia can be embarrassing for men of all ages, especially those going through puberty. Breasts can grow as large as DDs, and can become painful and even lactate. In some cases, the condition goes away on its own, but often, surgeries such as liposuction or mastectomy are needed to permanently remove the breast tissue.
Lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals, maker of Risperdal, claiming the drug company knew the medication could cause gynecomastia in adolescent boys, yet the company covered up side effects data, putting profits over patients. What’s even more devastating is that often, boys who are treated with Risperdal are already vulnerable.
“Vulnerable boys diagnosed with such disorders as ADHD, ASD and other emotional-social-learning disorders are increasingly treated with low doses of antipsychotic medications,” Linda Blum, associate professor of Sociology at Northeastern University told Broadly. The drugs “influence blood sugar metabolism and have a common side-effect of weight gain, often leading in boys to breast growth. This is a cruel effect in young men already likely to be bullied by peers – and mothers I spoke with were terribly concerned and conveyed stories of boys ashamed by their bodies.”
Spiderman didn’t say why he couldn’t have his breasts surgically removed. Elective surgeries are often not covered by health insurance, which can be a huge obstacle for some people. And gynecomastia surgeries can cost as much as $10,000 or more. Whatever the reason, Spiderman said the mental anguish he suffers from his condition has become so severe that he is willing to risk his own life to be rid of his breasts. “I realize this is reckless,” he wrote. “I’d rather be deformed, or die from a failed attempt, than keep living this pathetic, depressing life with it.”