Is tanning addictive? A new study shows that some teens who spend time in indoor tanning booths become addicted to their “fix” and are more likely to engage in other harmful behaviors such as using alcohol and drugs.
Teen Tanning: A New Kind of Addiction?
In a study published in the Archives of Dermatology, researchers used two questionnaires similar to ones used to screen for substance abuse problems to screen 421 college students for a possible tanning addiction. They found that almost forty percent of the students who used indoor tanning beds met the criteria for a tanning addiction using one questionnaire and thirty percent met the criteria using the second one.
Even more disturbing was the fact that teens who met the criteria for a tanning addiction on both questionnaires were more likely to use addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs and to experience anxiety. Clearly, teen tanning for some is more than just an innocent pastime.
Teens and Tanning: What’s the Appeal?
Teens who spend excessive amounts of time in indoor tanning booths say they do it to socialize with friends and to relax – and of course to get a golden glow that makes them look good in a bikini.
Other Forms of Tanning Addiction
Some teens have a different disorder known as “tanorexia” – a term coined to describe a person who feels like they can’t get tan enough and will keep visiting indoor tanning booths and laying in the sun to get darker – regardless of the health risks.
Like anorexics, these people suffer from a distorted body image. Both forms of tanning addiction have something in common – the teen continues to practice the behavior despite the health consequences.
Teen Tanning Addictions: How to Stop the Damage
Is there a way to help a teen with a tanning addiction before they do irreparable damage to their skin? Some teens who are obsessed with tanning have low self-esteem or experience depression and are using indoor tanning as a way to get a temporary lift. Lying in a tanning causes release of “feel good” hormones called endorphins that give tanning teens a sense of well being – and teens often feel more relaxed after they’ve spent time in a tanning booth.
The best approach is to educate teens about the dangers of using tanning booths. Spending time in a tanning booth or lying in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer – and the most deadly form of it – malignant melanoma. It also causes premature aging of the skin. Teens that have a tanning addiction may benefit from finding other outlets for relaxation such as yoga or meditation that are gentler to the skin.