Tanorexia is a comical name for a condition that is real and dangerous. Some people develop harmful obsessions with tanning. Whether it can truly be called an addiction is a matter for experts to debate, but the fact remains that compulsive or addictive tanning afflicts people and carries risks and dangers. Young women most often fall victim to obsessive tanning, but anyone can develop this dangerous habit. How can you avoid becoming obsessed and how can you stop once you have?
Any type of addiction, whether chemical or behavioral, exhibits certain characteristic signs. The addict keeps using in spite of the harm doing so causes. She gets out of control and can’t cut back, no matter how much she wants to stop. She develops a tolerance and needs more and more to get the desired high. Finally, she experiences withdrawal symptoms when she can’t get her fix. If you see any of these signs in yourself with respect to tanning, or in someone else, you may be headed for a real problem with addictive behaviors.
The Dangers Of Obsessive Tanning
When you become obsessive about tanning and behave like an addict, you put yourself at risk for a number of reasons. The first is the addiction itself. When you have an addiction, you let other areas of your life slide. You obsess over tanning. You may lose money from tanning too often. You might neglect other responsibilities and activities because you want to be in the tanning bed. You probably also experience psychological symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression.
The other big risk is to your physical health. The ultraviolet radiation that causes you to get that golden, glowing skin color is also what will give you cancer if you don’t stop. More people develop skin cancer because of tanning than lung cancer from smoking. Melanoma, a type of cancer that can be fatal if not caught early, is caused by exposure to ultraviolet light. You run the risk of cancer whether you tan under the sun or in a bed.
The Mental Health Implications Of Tanorexia
Recent research that supports the idea that tanning can be an addiction has made a connection between obsessive tanning and mental health. In addition to the addiction and the physical harm, you may also have mental health issues if you exhibit addictive tanning behaviors.
The researchers, from Bowling Green State University, screened over 500 female college students for tanning addiction and two mental health disorders. They found that the young women obsessed with tanning were much more likely to suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. Both disorders are characterized by obsessive thoughts and behaviors and some women aim those obsessions at their skin color and tanning..
Giving Up The Tanning Habit
If you are starting to think you may have an unhealthy obsession with tanning, even if you don’t match all the criteria, you can and should stop. Start by learning more about skin cancer to help motivate you to avoid tanning beds. Tell a friend or close family member that you are trying to kick the habit, or at least slow down. Having someone to hold you accountable to your goal can be a big help.
If you take these measures and still find you can’t stop tanning, you may need some professional help. Look for a counselor who can help you work through your addiction and who can also diagnose you if you think you might be struggling with a mental health disorder. The sooner you get this help, the sooner you will be able to stop tanning.
Learn More About Addictive Behaviors