Tanning: An Addiction Like Smoking

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CBS Houston (con't)

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(CBS) - There are many sun worshipers who still want to be tanned despite the health risks. Doctors are finding some people really can’t control the impulse. Americans were shocked when they first saw the darkly browned face of Patricia Krentcil. She is the New Jersey mother who is charged with trying to bring her six-year-old daughter into a tanning booth.

“I’ve been tanning my whole life, going to the beach, tanning salons,” Krentcil told the television cameras. Although that case is severe, some beach goers in Revere admitted the sun can be addictive. This is despite the fact most people by now are aware of the dangers of excessive sun exposure.

Dr. George Verghese, a dermatologist, said this isn’t just about skin cancer. “But also premature aging of the skin, wrinkling, sun spots, so basically accelerating the aging process, maybe up to 10-15 years,” he said.

Some tanners are now called “Tanorexics”, and could be suffering from a body dysmorphic disorder, according to Gregory Jones, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist. “It’s a disorder where people have a preoccupation with certain perceived defects in their bodies, and the focus becomes excessive.”

For those people, tanning becomes an addiction, just like smoking or alcoholism. Studies on indoor tanning show those who suffer from “Tanorexia” love the endorphin release they experience. “Because of the endorphin releases that can cause physical addiction, people can actually have withdrawal symptoms if they cannot go tanning,” said Jones.

The best way to enjoy the sun is to limit your exposure and wear a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. Also make sure it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

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