25 Jun 2014
Tanning addiction is an example of what experts term a process or behavioral addiction. Unlike drug or alcohol addiction, there is no substance consumed; yet many of the symptoms overlap. Going for a tan, whether at a salon with artificially produced light or at the beach and under the sun, poses many risks, not least of which is skin cancer. Getting a little sun is healthy, but becoming obsessive about getting that golden glow could prove fatal.
What Is Tanning Addiction?
A process addiction is one that involves a behavior rather than a substance. People can become addicted to gambling, shopping, sex or even getting a tan. Research indicates that tanning addiction is a real phenomenon and one that mostly impacts younger women. What happens when you tan that can lead to an addiction is the same thing that happens when someone takes a hit of a drug, or wins at the blackjack table: you feel good.
Exposure to both sunlight and the artificial light of a tanning bed produces a pleasurable release of endorphins in the body. Until it becomes uncomfortably hot, being out in the sun simply feels good. It’s also a powerful mood booster. As with substance abuse, some people are susceptible to abusing the feel-good sensation of tanning. They seek out the good feeling, as well as what they perceive to be an attractive tan, over and over again. Research shows that people addicted to tanning experience many of the same physical and psychological symptoms as alcoholics and drug addicts.
How Do I Know If I’m Addicted To Tanning?
A good way to check if you might be addicted to tanning is to look at those symptoms and signs of addiction that are common to both chemical and behavioral addictions. One of the first signs of an addiction of any kind is tolerance. This means that you need to spend more and more time under the tanning lights in order to get the pleasurable feeling you are seeking. For example, you may have started out tanning once a week, but then climbed to two or three times a week and then every day.
Another important sign of addiction is withdrawal. When you have to skip a tanning session for any reason, do you feel anxious or upset? If so, your body and mind are experiencing withdrawal from your “drug.” Other symptoms of addiction include obsessive thoughts and actions. Are you constantly thinking about getting your next fix? Has your life begun to revolve around tanning? Addiction also causes you to neglect your other activities. Have you let your work or academics slide? Are your relationships suffering? If you recognize these signs in yourself, you may have a problem.
What Are The Risks Of Tanning Too Much?
Over-tanning is very dangerous. The risk of addiction is serious because it can impact your life in many negative ways even though you are not a drug user or drinker. The bigger danger, however, is the effect of the tanning on your skin and your health. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is the deadliest form of cancer in the U.S. and the number one most preventable factor in developing it is the use of tanning beds.
If you feel that you have a problem with tanning, cut back or stop altogether. If you find that you can’t, turn to an addiction counselor experienced in working with process addictions. With the help of a professional you can kick the habit, and in doing so you just might save your life.