Categorized | Sex & Health

Tan Away the Winter Blues

College relationships. To many, college love is the graduation from high school crushes and puppy dog love to mature relationships that, hopefully, offer promises of a bright future, post graduation and beyond – as long as you survive the ‘break up season.’

Every year between January and March, couples will begin to split for what appears to be no good reason. You may notice it among your group of friends. Couples who have dated for months and years alike will slowly begin to break things off in hopes of finding something new.

Kate Mortensen, an economics junior, has experienced relationship troubles nearly every winter.

“Its just general unhappiness,” explains Mortensen. “Everything will be going smoothly for months, but every winter things just seem to go downhill, until spring, and everything suddenly will be perfect again… It just seems like we get the winter blues or something.”

Mortensen’s relationship stresses are not unlike many around campus and are generally dismissed by students as mere winter blues; however, they may actually be side effects from a mood disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD, as stated by the Mayo Clinic, is a type of depression that starts at the same time every year, usually during the winter months, and can lead to moodiness and irritability. Other symptoms include hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal and weight gain. SAD is treatable, and treatment ranges from UV light exposure to prescription drugs; however, tanning is a simpler solution that will give you the same benefits without pricey doctor visits.

Tanning may be the solution.

Sarah Munkacsy, owner and operator of Bronze Bay Tanning in downtown East Lansing is a strong believer that tanning is a viable treatment for SAD and a better alternative than taking prescription drugs.

“A lot of people come in and say ‘I’m really depressed,’” she said. “[Personally] I feel so much better when I tan.”

Munkacsy, who was diagnosed several years ago with SAD, spent several winters taking antidepressants like Prozac in an attempt to return to her normal, vibrant self.

“I just didn’t like how I felt. I usually have a type A personality, and I just didn’t feel like myself,” she said.

Upon being asked about her relationship with her husband, Munkacsy said she did not feel like she changed toward him. Her husband, who works with her at their tanning salon, told a different story, signaling that she was quite moody before she began treatment.

After several winters of taking Prozac, Munkacsy approached her doctor asking if there were any other treatment options for her SAD. Her doctor suggested tanning two to three times a week, and she hasn’t looked back.

“It’s so much better than drugs,” she said. “I feel like myself again.”

What is it about tanning that makes people feel better? Katie Edwards, an employee at Bronze Bay Tanning, explained it in simple terms.

Edwards had recently worked on a research project involving tanning and its general effects on the body. According to her research, light exposure leads to two different mood elevating chemical reactions. The first is the production of vitamin D, which studies suggest is directly related to moods; that is, the more vitamin D you have in your system, the happier you tend to be. The second reaction is the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin, as with vitamin D, is stimulated by light exposure and is directly linked to moodiness and possibly depression. During the summer months, most Michiganders are active and readily get sufficient light exposure; however, with the typically overcast winters, light and warm days are hard to come by. Therefore, less sunlight means less vitamin D and serotonin, and as a result also means moodiness, depression and a strain on your relationships.

SAD is suspected to affect up to 20 percent of the general population; however, Munkacsy believes most cases go undiagnosed and dismissed as moodiness or winter blues.

“I have tried tanning and do feel a lot better after I go,” said Mortensen. “I’ve never officially been diagnosed with [SAD], but whatever winter moodiness I have, it clears it up pretty well.”

Mortensen, who has struggled with relationships during the aforementioned ‘break up season,’ went on to talk about her relationships.

“It seemed like I’d get in a lot of petty fights pretty readily for no reason,” she said, “but since I started tanning it’s been a lot easier over the winter months. I just hope that [my boyfriend] feels the same way.”

“I think that most people aren’t educated about [SAD],” said Munkacsy. She suggests that anyone interested in tanning and its positive affects on mood should visit www.tanningtruth.com.

“It’s such an easy fix. If people knew how much better you feel after tanning, a lot more people would be doing it,” said Mortensen.

So before you break off another relationship between the months of January and March, try getting a tan. The results could save your relationship and make you feel more like yourself again.

3 Responses to “Tan Away the Winter Blues”

  1. As a supporter of the Big Green, I have to say, I am incredibly disappointed in this article. How could you not speak to a dermatologist about the harmful effects of tanning? “Vitamin D is good for you!” is a marketing scheme that tanning salons have been using for the past few years to help with the fact that dermatologists and health care professionals agree tanning is one of the unhealthiest things you can do for your body. To link your readers to a site that supports tanning — a site made by the tanning industry — without any mention of the dangers of skin cancer is seriously irresponsible reporting. I think very highly of TBG and I hope you’ll revisit the issue of tanning again.

    Because yes, couples splitting up this time of year is a real bummer, but then so is melanoma.

  2. Julia Lyskawa says:

    At first, when I was reading this article, I thought it MUST be satire because no one in their right mind would write about tanning and not mention a word about the risks associated with it. I fully agree that SAD is a serious condition for a lot of people, especially those who live through Michigan’s crummy winters, but there are other alternatives to tanning! Go buy a SAD lamp – they are made especially for this situation! Also, no real medical doctor would ever suggest to a patient to try “tanning two or three times a week” like it’s their daily vitamin or something!

  3. Emily Lawler says:

    Thanks for reading! And yes, there are many dangers associated with tanning, and they’ve been thoroughly covered by all of mainstream media and TBG (http://www.thebiggreen.net/2005/02/24/bronzedbeauties/)!

    This article is a new twist on an ongoing issue, which is something TBG has always strived for. We’re not in any way attempting to ignore the risks, but think people are rather well-acquainted with them. This article talks about some of the benefits. If you’d like to link to a site with some of the scarier “tanning truths,” please do! We’d welcome additional resources for our readers.

    — Emily Lawler, EIC

    PS. They make SAD lamps? That’s interesting — I’ll look into it!

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