Tanorexia or tanning dependence is a rare syndrome where an individual appears to have a physical or psychological dependence on sunbathing or the use of tanning beds. The mechanism of dependence is unknown at this time.
Found in sunlight and tanning beds, ultraviolet light (made up of UVA and UVB rays) in fact produces endorphins — chemicals in the brain that create a feeling of euphoria. Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center studying frequent tanners who’d been given endorphin blockers recorded withdrawal symptoms — namely nausea, dizziness, and the shakes.
In 2005, a group of dermatologists published a study showing that frequent tanners experience a loss of control over their tanning schedule, displaying a pattern of dependence similar to smokers and alcoholics.
Addiction is why tanorexics can’t simply slather on self-tanners — just as chain-smokers can’t be cured with a stick of gum.
“Addicts live in constant fear of fading,” notes Dr. Amy Wechsler, MC’s “beauty shrink” and a dermatologist and psychiatrist in New York. “Suddenly they feel fatter, older, even sicker. It explains the extremes they go to to keep it up.” Mei Lei Leong, a 37-year-old marketing executive, recalls sunbathing in a bikini on the first sunny day of … continue reading