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Is Tanorexia A Real Thing?

There’s something that feels good about getting a proper tan. It provides us with a subtle confidence that comes from an appearance we actually enjoy. Most of us have a healthy relationship with this though. We know that, however we tan, there are times when it is good to have a little tan and others where it isn’t really that necessary. Some people don’t recognize this though. They try to appear tanned constantly as they prefer the look. It can be done, of course, and remains attractive, but it sometimes feels out of step with the season or location. Personal taste plays more in this than actual rules of fashion. However, there are people who take the dedication to a tan just a little bit too far. They need to tan and maintain their color regardless of the amount of times they need to and the potential consequences. This leads to people damaging their skin and thinking nothing of it. Lately a name has begun to be applied to this problem: tanorexia.

Wait, what?
Tanorexia is somewhat tongue-in-cheek way to refer to the obsession some people experience with tanning. They have a physical need to keep tanning and maintain the “proper” level of tan. Such people tend to be found outside constantly trying to work their tan and look their best. It can lead many of them to actually neglect proper skincare and avoid sunscreen as it might hurt their ability to get a tan. Unsurprisingly, this leads to a lot of skin problems as they begin to age. Statistically, fair-skinned women are far more likely to experience tanorexia than others. They tan during the spring, summer, fall, and winter. The part that makes this even worse is the fact that they will frequently use tanning beds in colder months despite the clear risk it presents to their skin’s health. Many people have taken to making light of the idea of people who are addicted to tanning, but it is beginning to be seen more and more as a real thing.

woman in sun
How It Works
It may seem absurd, but in truth, the idea of a physical addiction to tanning is quite possible. This is because of the nature of how your brain’s reward system works. You get a little burst of endorphins every time that you do something that pleases you or that is otherwise a positive experience. It reinforces that the action was a pleasant experience. That’s what is responsible for the warm glow you get from doing something you enjoy. Tanning is no different. It triggers a release for some people and makes them feel good. Compounding this is the fact that sunlight and UV light also triggers the release of endorphins in the body. This leads to certain people being susceptible to a double-whammy of the “feel goods” from their brain. That could get to anyone. As with most things that make people happier, it makes perfect sense they might become addicted.

Dealing With Tanorexia
As with most addictions, it requires recognizing that one has the addiction before it can be confronted. It is a process to wean oneself off tanning when one is addicted though. There are, in a way, withdrawals from it and the gradual fading of skin tone can be difficult to cope with for some. It is advisable to seek professional therapy to help deal with the mental difficulties involved with breaking the addiction and keeping it broken. However, anyone suffering from tanorexia can help themselves cope to a degree if they’ll switch to sunless tanning products. These will help you to maintain a good color without the actual necessity of tanning. The products are far superior than they used to be and look quite natural. It allows you to maintain your goal while learning to break the unhealthy aspect of trying to keep a tan. You will also want to make regular appointments with a dermatologist to determine the damage done to your skin and if there are any worrying areas that require close examination. Doing all of this will help you on the road to recovery.

Tanorexia, while sounding like a joke, can be a very real thing to some people. It may seem pointless or funny to some people who don’t understand it, but it is a serious problem for people who suffer from it. The potential for damage to their overall health is very high given it drastically raises their chance for skin cancer and other skin conditions. Working towards finding ways to break the addiction is the best way forward for anyone dealing with it. You can do it and you’ll be better for it.

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