Tanorexia: Can Wanting To Be Tanned Affect Mental Health?

Tanorexia: can wanting to be tanned affect our mental health?

With the arrival of summer, there is an increase in exposure to ultraviolet radiation and it is common to observe that people seek to obtain a tanned skin tone. This skin color is widely valued and accepted in many cultures, as it is considered to improve aesthetics and provide positive psychological effects, such as greater physical attractiveness and greater self-confidence. In fact, More than 10 million people in the United States go to tanning salons each year, which represents approximately 1 in 3 young adult women. The prevalence of this behavior has led to programs to prevent melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer. Despite efforts to raise awareness about the risks of tanning, some people develop what is known as tanorexia.

What is meant by tanorexia?

Tanorexia, also known as tanning dysmorphic disorder, is a term used to describe a compulsive obsession with obtaining and maintaining a tan on the skin. People who suffer from tanorexia may experience excessive concern about looking tan and may spend long hours exposing themselves to the sun or using tanning booths in order to achieve this goal. This behavior intensifies especially during the summer season, due to the social and cultural pressure to have tanned skin, which is considered desirable. Although research on this issue is limited, It is estimated that the prevalence of tanorexia varies between 4% and 33% in the general population that uses ultraviolet ray cabins to acquire a tanned skin tone, being more common in young women.

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Its psychological consequences

In addition to the already known medical and physical problems, tanorexia can have a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of people who suffer from it. Those who suffer from tanorexia may experience low self-esteem and a distorted body image. They may feel dissatisfied with their appearance and come to believe that they will only be accepted or considered attractive if they have a deep tan.

This obsession can interfere with various aspects of your daily life cause emotional distress and have a negative impact on your interpersonal relationships.

The relationship of tanorexia with some mental disorders

Although tanorexia is not officially recognized as a disorder in psychiatric diagnostic manuals, its possible relationship with other mental disorders has been raised, such as addictive disorders and eating disorders (EDs), such as anorexia nervosa or vigorexia. (obsession with muscular appearance).

First of all, tanorexia shares with addictive disorders the loss of control, tolerance and withdrawal, which is why many researchers have considered it a form of behavioral addiction. On the other hand also There has been debate about its similarities with eating disorders, since both disorders have common characteristics, such as excessive concern about body image and a distortion of self-perception. Additionally, both disorders can be influenced by unrealistic beauty standards and social pressures.

Recommendations to have a healthy relationship with tanning

Although there is no consensus on what type of disorders tanorexia is closest to, what is undoubted is that it can cause a significant problem in the mental and physical health of many people. That is why, below, you will find five recommendations to learn how to deal with it and promote a healthier relationship with tanning:

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1. Work on self-acceptance and self-love

Take time to explore and embrace your natural appearance, recognizing that beauty is diverse and not limited to skin color. Cultivate a positive attitude toward yourself, focusing on more meaningful aspects of your identity and personal value. Practice gratitude for your body and focus on developing a healthy relationship with yourself.

2. Educate yourself about the risks of tanning

Learn about the dangers associated with excessive sun exposure and tanning bed use. Know the health risks, such as skin cancer and premature aging, can help you rethink your priorities and take healthier steps to care for yourself. Research safe alternatives to getting a tanned look, such as self-tanning products or sunless tanning services.

3. Set limits and look for alternatives

Set healthy limits on your time in the sun and avoid overusing tanning beds. Prioritize your health and well-being by making conscious decisions about sun exposure. Explore alternative activities that make you feel good about yourself such as practicing outdoor sports with adequate sun protection, enjoying walks in nature or participating in creative activities.

4. Seek emotional support and forms of emotional regulation

Consider seeking support from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or therapist, to address your concerns and work on your body self-image. Professional support can give you tools and strategies to cope with tanorexia and strengthen your mental health. Also, don’t underestimate the power of support from friends and family, who will provide you with understanding and support during your recovery process. You can also do emotional regulation exercises.

In this sense, full attention or mindfulness can be a powerful tool to develop greater awareness of your thoughts and emotions related to tanorexia. Learning breathing, meditation, or yoga techniques can help you be present in the moment and cultivate a more balanced relationship with your body.

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5. Explore safe tanning options and realistic goals

If you want to achieve a tanned look, consider safer options such as self-tanning products or specialized makeup. These products allow you to achieve a healthy skin tone without the risks associated with excessive sun exposure. Experiment with different brands and techniques to find the option that best suits your preferences and needs.

But, most importantly, instead of obsessing about getting a deep tan, set realistic goals related to your overall well-being. Focus on taking care of your physical and mental health, nurturing your relationships, and exploring your interests. Set goals that give you satisfaction beyond physical appearance. It may also be necessary to question the unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards promoted in the media and society. Recognize that beauty comes in different shapes, sizes, and skin tones. Appreciate diversity and focus your energy on developing your talents, skills and inner qualities.

In conclusion…

Although there is no consensus on the precise classification of tanorexia, there is widespread agreement that it is a problem that intensifies during the summer and has detrimental consequences for both emotional and physical health.

Although several recommendations have been mentioned for dealing with tanorexia, it is important to keep in mind that each person is unique and may require a personalized approach. If you are concerned about your relationship with tanning and its impact on your mental health, it is essential to seek professional assistance to address the addictive symptoms of tanorexia. Proper diagnosis and early treatment can make all the difference in terms of long-term recovery and well-being.