Tanorexia is a new term coined to describe a new-age phenomenon – tanning bed addiction. Yet despite the mocking undertone, tanorexia is a real cause for concern, according to a recent study.
In the summer of 2009, news broke that tanning beds have been proven to cause cancer. What had been speculated upon for years previously was suddenly fact. Naturally, this saw a dramatic fall in the number of people using sun beds. But it also drew attention to the possibility that some were not able to quit their regime simply because they were addicted.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the State University of New York, Catherine Mosher and Sharon Danoff-Burg, young people who frequently use indoor tanning facilities are more likely to have drug and alcohol dependency, as well as a susceptibility to depression.
The objective of their project was to investigate the prevalence of sun bed addiction in 421 college students and its association with drug use and anxiety symptoms. Out of those, 229 reported having used a tanning bed, with almost 40% meeting the criteria for addiction to the beauty procedure. Interestingly, these addicted individuals also reported greater use of alcohol and drugs and higher levels of anxiety.
Mosher told Reuters: “From a public health perspective, the findings suggest that there may be a subgroup of individuals who are addicted to indoor tanning and have an underlying mood disturbance.”
The Indoor Tanning Association has retaliated, telling Reuters that the jury was very much out on whether or not branding this as an addiction was a “useful science“. Spokesperson John Overstreet added that his organization has always preached moderation and urged tanning bed users to avoid overexposure.
Though this may be true, it does not disprove the notion that tanning could be an addiction like any other. After all, major liquor companies also advocate moderation, yet that does not prevent some people from becoming addicted to alcohol.
In fact, research from Wake Forest University in 2006 suggested that frequent sun-bed-goers experienced real withdrawal symptoms when going cold turkey, according to Living in Shade, which included nausea and jitteriness.
UV lights in tanning beds trigger the release of endorphines. With frequent use, the body can become dependent on these endorphine surges and find going without them difficult, much like any other practice or substance releasing pleasure-inducing brain chemicals.
However, sun bed addiction can also be linked to a psychological disorder, according to professor of psychiatry at Brown University Medical School Katharine Phillips: “Some people who compulsively tan have body dysmorphic disorder, which is an under-recognized and pretty common disorder,” US News reported. Tanning becomes another way for sufferers to attempt to conceal small and often nonexistent flaws in their appearance.
Click here to read about celebrities with addictions.