The term comes from the Greek words gyne meaning "woman" and mastos meaning "breast." In practical terms, this means abnormally large breasts on men.
The condition is relatively common in adolescent boys, and 90% of the time symptoms disappear in a matter of months, or, as adolescence wanes, a few years later. But the remaining 10% are burdened with a social handicap that causes a deep and complex shame, and puts one's relationship with one's body at risk.
In cases of obesity, weight loss can alter the gynecomastic condition, but for many it will not eliminate it. For all other causes, surgery is the only known physical remedy. Once the physical encumbrance is lifted, psychological scars still need to be addressed. One must come to terms with one's body, accept it, and heal the wounds from the past.
Gynecomastia can be emotionally devastating. Feelings of shame, embarrassment and humiliation are common. One does not feel masculine in a society where masculinity is exalted. Self-hate threads itself through all aspects of the individual's life, creating an insidious web of powerlessness. A man or boy with gynecomastia struggles with anxiety over such simple acts as taking off his shirt at the beach.
For many men, the best solution is surgery. That accomplishes step one of the healing. Step two is psychological redress. From childhood taunting to a lifetime of hating his chest, the hurt feelings will not go away with the fact of breast reduction alone.
Men who have developed gynecomastia later in life from steroid abuse or some other cause may have little to no psychological distress. However, for some in this situation, it can leave them feeling out of control of their body or emasculated in some matter. Hopefully, corrective surgery will resolve these feelings, for some it will not and therapy will needed to relieve the distress.
It is important to recognize the scars on the inside. This is difficult work because it means coming to terms with one's body and past. Acknowledging the pain, moving into a new relationship with one's body and changing how he thinks the world sees him is the key to healing and freedom.
Men often have a very difficult time talking about their breasts to anyone, but it is the first step toward relief. Realizing that they are not alone is a powerful antidote for the shame and a beginning toward healing.