Tanning is a process undergone to achieve a darkened skin color. Before the advent of technology, tanning was solely achieved through the natural process of sunbathing. The skin darkens because of a pigment called melanin. When the skin cells are overexposed to the ultraviolet radiation from the sun, more melanin is produced. This mechanism is the body’s way of shielding itself from further damage.
Now, there are several other ways to get a tan which doesn’t involve laying outdoors for hours. One such example is tanning beds, this equipment is fitted with UV bulbs that mimic the sun’s radiation, achieving the same, but much more rapid effect. Another artificial method is spray tanning. A delivery device is used to spray a fine mist onto the body which gives a variety of hues to achieve that sunkissed glow.
Why Tanning Can Be Addicting…
As in all things, when you overdo tanning, it can turn into an addiction. Tanorexia is the term used for a syndrome characterized by a physical and psychological dependence on tanning. In terms of etiology, scientists have discovered a biological correlation, they found out that certain dopamine receptor genes present in individuals increase their risk for tanning addiction and that this risk is increased tenfold if they also have depression.
The psychological process of tanning dependence has been linked to the release of endorphins, essentially the body’s natural opioids. Studies suggest that the compulsion to tan stems from the production of beta-endorphins on the epidermal layer of the skin once it is exposed to ultraviolet rays. And because endorphins induce feelings of pleasure and decrease pain sensation, the habitual act of tanning will be associated with a feelgood sensation.
The Dangers Of Too Much Tanning
Whether it’s done outdoors or inside a tanning salon, the repeated UV exposure can have serious consequences. On the outside, the sunkissed glow one gets after a tan seems healthy, but this could not be further from the truth. Like we discussed earlier, the darkening of the skin is evidence of DNA damage.
When damaged cells multiply, they become cancerous. The most common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer can look like red or pink patches, crusty growths, or a glossy bump. It can vary from one individual to another and when diagnosed and treated early, rarely leads to malignancy. The second most frequently occurring skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This is characterised by scaly inflamed patches or a wart-like appearance on the skin, it can also look like an open sore.
The scariest and most lethal form of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanoma can metastasize to other areas of the body and is much more aggressive. Melanomas typically look like moles, but the borders are irregular and the color varies. Multiple-colored moles are a warning sign of melanoma.
Any alterations in the shape, size, or color of a spot in the skin accompanied by itching, bleeding, or scaly appearance are telltale signs of this form of skin cancer. Although melanomas only account for 2% of skin cancer cases, it is responsible for 75% of the deaths associated with skin cancer.
Is Tanning Addiction Treatable?
There is no unique program dedicated to treating those with a tanning addiction; no rehab that is likely to specialize in this form of addiction. However, there are options that you can consider. Cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnosis and antidepressant medications are important therapies available at the moment.
The Arden Centre with its highly professional and compassionate staff are more than capable to provide support for this type of unhealthy behaviour. Counselling sessions set in a warm, relaxing environment encourage our guests to open up and address their issues.
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I am an energetic and committed Senior Health Care Manager with a passion for developing staff through education and mentoring.