In our society, we take drug addictions seriously. If a friend or relative is fighting an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or even smoking, we rally around them. We get informed and take action to help that friend or relative achieve health and wholeness.
While this may seem unrelated to having a tan, the truth is that tanning can be an addiction. Not everyone who has a tan is addicted, but some regular tanners do exhibit physical and emotional symptoms of addiction.
Using addiction recognition guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association, a team of doctors at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston conducted a survey in 2005 to see if there was a correlation between frequent tanning and addictive behavior. The results showed that 53% of frequent tanners demonstrate behavior that qualifies as addiction.
More recently, dermatologists at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center conducted research involving the drug naltrexone, which is used to help treat alcoholism and drug addiction by blocking the body's absorption of narcotics and narcotic-like substances. Infrequent tanners did not experience negative side effects, but frequent tanners exhibited signs of withdrawal such as nausea and shaking. The drug was administered in small amounts that rarely affect those who do not have narcotic addictions.
If you're concerned that you may be addicted to tanning, read through the following questions and answer "yes" or "no."
1. Do you go tanning more than once per week?
2. Do you feel guilty when you go tanning?
3. Do you get upset when people tell you to stop tanning?
4. Do you get upset when you can't go tanning?
5. When you feel upset, do you go tanning to "relax"?
6. Do you feel a physical "rush" after tanning?
7. Do you go tanning even when you still have color in your skin?
8. Have you had a mole or skin lesion removed and still continue to go tanning?
If you answer yes to two or more of these questions, you may be exhibiting addictive responses to tanning. If you answer yes to question 8, you should seek a doctor's advice immediately about what you can do to discourage yourself from tanning.
For those demonstrating symptoms of addiction, it may be difficult to reduce your frequency of tanning. If this is the case, enlist the help of friends and family who can hold you accountable for how often you lie out in the sun or in a tanning bed. Remember that frequent tanning is harmful not only to the elasticity of your skin but also to your overall health.
None of this means that you have to give up looking tan. There are other options for people who want the appearance of a tan without risking UV damage. Next week, I'll discuss what kinds of services are available to get you ready for summer without hurting your health.