Tanning as a behavioral addiction

Arianne S. Kourosh, Cynthia R. Harrington, Bryon Adinoff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Background: Persistent tanning despite potentially fatal consequences suggests a compulsive behavior similar to other addictive disorders. Objectives: To review the literature supporting tanning addiction from an epidemiological, behavioral, and neurobiological perspective. Methods: A comprehensive review of the medical literature was conducted to assess the health consequences of tanning, behaviors and other psychiatric disorders associated with tanning, and central rewarding effects of ultraviolet light. Results: Many frequent tanners endorse signs and symptoms adapted from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV (DSM IV) substance abuse or dependence criteria. Recent studies suggest biochemical mechanisms may reinforce ultraviolet light seeking behavior. Conclusions and Scientific Significance: Frequent and persistent tanning may reveal itself to be a dermatologic-psychiatric disorder with carcinogenic sequelae. Multidisciplinary studies are required to determine the validity of an addiction diagnosis and to explore pharmacologic and cognitive therapeutic options for affected persons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-290
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Addictive
  • Behavior
  • Compulsive
  • Light
  • Ultraviolet radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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