Should doctors and scientists consider people with a tanning addiction mentally ill? Researchers have recently explored excessive tanning in relation to mental health. Furthermore, they were able to draw connections between problematic tanning and disorders such as OCD and body dysmorphia. To learn more about this, refer to Alexandra Sifferlin’s article from Time or read more below.
Should Doctors Consider a Tanning Addiction a Mental Health Issue?
You know the type. They have dark brown skin in the middle of February and take constant trips to the tanning salon. It’s the tanning addict.
We may joke about Snooki’s bad habits, but new research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that people who tan excessively also experience some mental health symptoms that should be taken seriously, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and body dysmorphic disorders (BDD).
There are definitely people out there who push their tanning to the limit. For these people, their wintertime tan stands as evidence of their compulsive behavior. These people can tan so much that it becomes problematic, as chances of skin cancer increase and mental health takes a back seat.
Excessive Tanning and Mental Health Disorders
Researchers Lisham Ashrafioun and Dr. Erin Bonar conducted a study on tanning addiction. They studied the addiction in conjunction with conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Through this research, they explored the possibility of categorizing excessive tanning as a form of addiction. The two eventually published a paper entitled “Tanning Addiction and Psychopathology: Further Evaluation of Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse.”
According to their research, individuals who have the tendency to tan excessively also exhibit symptoms related to other mental health issues. Additionally, these symptoms often warrant further psychological assessment. The proponents of the study stressed that although a tanning addiction, OCD, and body dysmorphic disorder can exist in an individual as separate issues, OCD and BDD have been found to sometimes contribute to the development of a tanning addiction.
The researchers used criterion from the 4th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders to identify 533 Bowling Green State University students who suffer from tanning addiction problems. Of the sample obtained through screening, 31% showed significant symptoms in line with tanning dependence, while 12% exhibited signs of problematic tanning. Furthermore, their data showed a significant link between OCD, body dysmorphic disorder, and tanning addiction. However, for the 12% who exhibited criterion for problematic tanning, the researchers were only able to draw a significant connection with OCD.
Ashrafioun has further stated a tanning addiction may have developed in these individuals as a result of obsessions or compulsions. Additionally, these people also tend to engage in tanning behaviors in order to relieve the heightened anxiety that comes with OCD. However, these researchers also noted that their study is only limited to OCD and BDD. Given this, there is still a lot of room for study when it comes to understanding tanning addiction.
How Do We Avoid Tanning Addiction?
Currently, tanning salons only give a precautionary warning in an attempt to combat tanning addiction. The findings of the study mentioned that these warnings do very little for those with preexisting conditions. Moreover, it would be of greater help if therapy and psychiatric consultations were instead presented as options for those struggling with a tanning addiction.
To find out more about overcoming a tanning addiction, watch this video by Allison McNamara.
Do you have any experience with excessive tanning behaviors? Please share them with us in the comments section below!