Tanorexia or when being tanned becomes an obsession

Tanorexia is a psychological problem that can lead to serious health problems, including skin cancer. It is defined as an addiction to tanning, which leads to developing risky behaviors.

Tanorexia is a compulsive desire to be or remain tanned . For a long time it was considered simply as eccentric behavior, but it was not classified as an addiction or disorder. However, a study carried out in 2005 by a group of dermatologists changed the perception in this regard.
Today, tanorexia is approached as an addiction , since it meets all the criteria for it. The 2005 study suggested that those with this type of behavior present behavior patterns similar to those of other forms of addiction, such as alcoholism.
Later studies continued along the same lines, specifying the possible causes of tanorexia, as we will tell you about in this article. Therefore, this compulsive desire to sunbathe and tan is not, as previously believed, a fashion trend or an aesthetic obsession, but goes much further.

What is Tanorexia?

Tanorexia is defined as an addiction to tanning. Those who suffer from it experience an obsessive need to have a darker skin tone, and to achieve this they sunbathe outdoors or expose themselves to a tanning chamber. However, he is never satisfied with the skin tone he achieves.
There is no full agreement among the experts on whether it is an independent psychiatric disorder, or if it constitutes a modality of body dysmorphic disorder ( BDD ). There are also those who point out that it should be classified as a syndrome, since there are aspects of this problem that do not yet have sufficient scientific evidence.
Those who suffer from this problem do not take into account the consequences that can be derived from continuous exposure to the sun or UV cameras . They suffer from an obsessive need to darken their skin, and potential health risks do not persuade them to moderate their behavior .

Tanorexia is defined as an obsession with always being tanned, looking for darker skin tones.

Symptoms and causes

According to studies by Feldman et al., In 2004, repeated sunbathing or UV rays increase relaxation levels . This is because exposure to UV rays causes the release of endorphins and opioids in the body.
Endorphins are brain chemicals that relieve pain and produce a feeling of euphoria. These are secreted naturally, from the hypothalamus and pituitary, but only occurs in cases of emotional or physical stress , which includes situations of pain or intense effort, excitement and orgasm.
It is this feeling of well-being that gives rise to addiction . A tanorexic person experiences withdrawal syndrome when deprived of their UV baths. The difference between someone fond of the sun and a tanorexic is that the latter has the following symptoms:

  • Compulsive desire to tan and continued frustration at not getting a dark enough skin color.
  • Conviction that your skin tone is lighter than it really is.
  • Anguish for the possibility of losing the tan achieved so far.
  • Premature aging of the skin.
  • Burns that seek to camouflage with makeup.
  • Anxious behavior.
    Sunburn is a sign of tanorexia

The Effects of Tanorexia

Reasonable exposure to the sun has positive effects on depressive states and improves visual photoperception, as well as the metabolism of vitamin D. When there is excessive exposure to sunlight, on the contrary, several health problems appear.
First of all there is an effect on the skin, which accelerates skin aging and promotes dryness. Burns and different forms of skin cancer can also occur . Excessive sun causes eye damage, immunological disorders, DNA damage and free radical formation, among others.
From a psychological point of view, addiction generates a greater feeling of insecurity and lack of autonomy. It exacerbates anxiety, decreases tolerance to frustration, and often negatively impacts social relationships.

What to do?

Most often, those with tanorexia do not accept that they have a problem . They frequently consult the doctor for burns on their skin, or for other health difficulties derived from their excesses, but they will flatly refuse to admit that this is the cause.
This problem is very similar to anorexia. While in anorexia a person looks in the mirror and looks fat, even if it is in the bones, in tanorexia the person looks white, even if they are completely tanned and with burns on the skin.
The approach should be in consultation with a mental health professional to work on the causes that trigger this behavior. Most often, there are self-acceptance problems, but these can be treated with qualified support.

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