Parents, Kids and Steroids: An Interview with Brian Cuban
Brian Cuban is a successful lawyer, author and TV host. He has dedicated his energies to raising awareness about a condition he has battled most of his life: Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Having faced a number of serious physical and psychological issues, Brian now reaches out to parents, kids, teachers and coaches to educate them about BDD and related challenges.
Brian sat down with us to talk about what parents can do to help their children avoid some of the pitfalls he faced, particularly steroid abuse.
Gynecomastia New York: Thank you for agreeing to be part of our gynecomastia blog, Brian. Is it difficult to talk about your experiences?
Brian Cuban: Not at all. After nearly losing a leg and coming close to committing suicide, sharing my story is a healthy part of my recovery process. I have written a book about my journey, Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and I author a blog on PsychCentral.com.
GNY: For those who might be unfamiliar with BDD, what is it?
BC: BDD is a condition in which the sufferer has a distorted view of his or her appearance. They are obsessed with one or more body flaws to the extent that they have trouble functioning normally. BDD and behaviors like steroid abuse can go hand-in-hand.
GNY: Most people don’t think about BDD when they think of steroid abuse. Bodybuilders and athletes are the groups most of us associate with performance enhancing drugs. But there’s another disturbing trend. What is it?
BC: There’s a serious problem of steroid abuse among teens and even pre-teens today. According to the Taylor Hooton Foundation, whose mission is to educate young people and adults about appearance and performance enhancing drugs (APEDs), more than 1.5 million teens – both boys and girls – admit to using anabolic steroids. And that number is on the rise.
GNY: Assuming most don’t have BDD, are teens looking for a boost in athletic abilities?
BC: It’s actually a myth that athletes are the main users, especially when you’re talking about teens. The majority of young people first take steroids simply to look and feel better about themselves.
GNY: Was that true in your case?
BC: Absolutely. I was not a world class athlete or bodybuilder. I believed that the changes in my body steroids could produce would help me be popular, get dates and fit in with my peers.
GNY: What did happen?
BC: Steroid abuse combined with BDD was a near lethal mix for me. I suffered challenges known to co-occur with steroid use such as eating disorders, alcoholism, drug addiction and depression. Physically, I’ve developed heart trouble, a massive staph infection and gynecomastia.
GNY: As you can imagine, we see a great many gynecomastia patients annually whose case has been brought on by steroid abuse. Did you know about this potential side effect years ago?
BC: I did not know about man boobs when I first started using. But frankly, my desire for acceptance was so overwhelming that no information about the dangers of steroids would have made much difference to me at the time.
GNY: You have decided to live with your “gyno” rather than have surgery, is that right?
BC: Yes, my personal road to self-acceptance includes making peace with my entire being just as it is. But I support other guys who decide to have male breast reduction. For some, it’s an important part of a transformation. Every person is different.
GNY: The most critical thing you wanted to share with us is a message for parents. What is it?
BC: I want parents to know that while there is much in their children’s life they cannot control, they can make a difference in how their kids see themselves. Think about what you have to say about appearance, food and body image. Discuss what’s really important in life with your sons and daughters. Speak to them about self-acceptance and lead by example.
GNY: You talk about providing a path.
BC: Some tendencies are rooted in biological factors, and it’s possible to be a great parent and still discover your kid is in trouble. But if you provide a clear path and demonstrate through your own life that the path leads to health and happiness, your kids will have a much better chance of avoiding some of the trauma I’ve faced.
Photo courtesy of Brian Cuban