Portraits of Gynecomastia
We’re always encouraged to see new material in the media about gynecomastia—it helps raise awareness about man boobs and furthers understanding about the condition. Many of the items we spot are studies and other pieces that are clinical in nature, but not all of them.
We were especially happy to run across a project that discusses the lives of real men with gynecomastia. It’s called Risperdal Boys, and you can find it here. The photographer, Richard Johnson, and his team, chronicled the difficulties of six men with enlarged breasts, and before you click, know that the photos and stories may be hard to take in.
The reason for the name of the project is that Risperdal, a Johnson & Johnson mood disorder drug, has been shown to cause breast tissue growth in some men and boys. Furthermore, following the work of inside “whistleblowers” and the testimony of government officials that the pharmaceutical giant knew about the risk and failed to warn doctors and patients, lawsuits have been popping up across the country. We wrote about the first individual Risperdal-gynecomastia trial here.
We’re well acquainted with this issue. We have seen several Risperdal-gynecomastia patients in New York and we follow the news closely. When reviewing Richard Johnson’s work we were struck by two reactions. On one hand, some guys profiled could be, in a sense, gynecomastia “every men” because many problems sufferers confront tend to be so similar. On the other hand, some of these six people represent tragic situations that are unique to the Risperdal-man boobs population.
Arturo from Michigan, for example, “tried covering it up with cardboard or tape,” but he was so humiliated in school that he dropped out. He also gained weight, and typical of guys with man boobs who want to get in better shape, “the more weight I lose, the more disfigured I become.” He has no friends and has never dated.
Another guy profiled in the Risperdal Boys project, Pedro from Florida, harbored so much anger from the treatment he got at school that he broke his hand punching the wall of his home. Eddie from Oklahoma became socially isolated, staying in his room to play video games and shut out the world.
The other aspect of some of these stories that hits hard is that these guys were already facing challenges—conditions that Risperdal was supposed to ease. Isaiah from Michigan is autistic and deaf, and though his mother took him off the drug his breasts are still enlarged. She says it’s bad enough that Isaiah contends with a dual impairment, but the man boobs are more visible than his other issues. She’d like to consider male breast reduction but doesn’t know if her son would be a candidate given his disabilities.
Brandon, a man from Indiana, took Risperdal to mitigate anger issues. In high school, he gained 100 pounds and grew breasts. Now he has taken himself off all drugs, mistrusts the medical world, has retreated into a life filled with games and has given up on dating and having a family (which he wishes for). What’s so sad about cases like Brandon’s and Isaiah’s is that the last thing these guys need in their lives is another cross to bear. Yet that’s exactly what they got.
Two of the men have already had male breast reduction surgery. Arturo and Pedro want to have the procedure and hope their lawsuits will enable them to do so. Arturo simply wants to “walk around without shame” and envisions a better future for himself. Pedro says if he should get an award from Johnson & Johnson he will get his body where he wants it to be, with the ultimate goal of having a relationship and possibly a wife someday.
We are glad these patients were brave enough to share their stories with Richard Johnson and the world. It’s rare to see one person step forward with a personal account and photos, let alone six. We understand that the two gentlemen who elected gynecomastia surgery found the experience to be trying, and we’d like to assure other candidates that it doesn’t have to be that way.
For patients with gynecomastia in New York, Risperdal induced or not, we use our thirty years of experience perfecting male breast reduction to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. We specialize in educating our patients thoroughly, and we ease the way with surgery in our accredited, private operating suite; twilight sedation that is easier to handle than general anesthesia; and unique instruments we created for gynecomastia. We don’t often require drains afterward, and most patients report just moderate discomfort for a few days to a week or so.
Our team—with many years of working together—stands by patients every step of the way. And if they should need to travel to New York for gynecomastia surgery, we can help make that happen too. Whatever guys decide, we strongly advise they choose a board certified plastic surgeon with hundreds of successful male breast reduction cases (a general surgeon is most often not a good option for this procedure).
We invite guys struggling with man boobs to contact us. We’d like to see if we can be of help.
Real Risperdal patient portrait by Richard Johnson, used by permission