Tanorexia: When Being Brown 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 sunbathing.
Tanorexia: When being brown becomes an obsession

Tanorexia , or tanorexia, is a compulsive desire to stay or stay tanned. For a long time, people thought it was just eccentric behavior. In fact, it was not classified as a disease or disorder until 2005. This year, however, a study by a group of dermatologists changed this view.

Today, specialists approach tanorexia as an addiction since it meets all the criteria for it. The 2005 study suggests that people with this behavior usually have other behavioral patterns similar to addiction, such as alcoholism.

Recent studies have continued with the same ideas, and have specified possible causes of tanorexia, which we will tell you more about in this article. This compulsive desire to sunbathe is therefore not, as previously thought, a fashion trend or an aesthetic obsession. It actually goes much deeper than this.

What is tanorexia?

Tanorexia is defined as an addiction to sunbathing. Those who suffer from it experience an obsessive need to have a darker skin tone. To achieve this, they sunbathe outdoors or spend a lot of time in the solarium. However, they are never happy with their skin color.

Experts do not completely agree on whether it is an independent psychiatric disorder or whether it is a type of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Some people also point out that it should be considered a syndrome since parts of this problem do not have sufficient scientific evidence.

People who suffer from this problem also do not take into account the consequences of the sun or UV rays. They have an obsessive need to darken the skin, and the potential health risks are not able to convince them otherwise.

Woman applying sunscreen

Symptoms and causes

According to studies by Feldman et al. from 2004 , sunbathing several times or exposing oneself to UV rays increases the level of relaxation. This is because exposure to UV rays causes the release of endorphins and opioids in the body.

Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that relieve pain and make you feel good. The body also secretes them naturally from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. However, this only happens under emotional or physical stress. This can include situations of pain or intense effort, tension and orgasm.

This feeling of happiness causes addiction. A person with tanorexia experiences withdrawal symptoms when they do not get sunburned. The difference between people who like to sunbathe and people with tanorexia is that the latter has the following symptoms:

  • A compulsive desire to get browner. They also feel frustrated that they cannot get dark enough.
  • They think that their skin is lighter than it really is.
  • They feel anxiety from the feeling that they are losing the tan they already have.
  • Premature aging of the skin.
  • Burns they try to cover with makeup.
  • Anxious behavior.
Woman is sunburned on her back

The effect of tanorexia

Reasonable exposure to the sun has positive effects on depression. In addition, it helps metabolize vitamin D. However, too much exposure to the sun can cause more health problems.

First of all, it has an effect on the skin because it accelerates the aging of the skin and causes dryness. Burns and various types of cancer can also occur. Excessive exposure to the sun can cause eye damage, immunological disorders, DNA damage, free radical formation and more.

From a psychological standpoint , addiction creates a greater sense of insecurity and lack of autonomy. It aggravates anxiety, reduces the tolerance for frustration and often damages interpersonal relationships.

What can you do?

Usually , people with tanorexia do not think they have a problem. They can regularly ask their doctor about sunburn or other health conditions. However, they will deny that their excessive tanning is to blame.

This problem is actually very similar to anorexia. A person with anorexia looks in the mirror and thinks they are overweight, even if they are just skin and bones. With tanorexia, the person believes that they are light in the skin, even if they are tanned or sunburned.

People with this condition should talk to a mental health professional to work with the various triggers for this behavior. The patient often has problems accepting himself, but these can be treated with the support of professionals.

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