Is There Such Thing As Tattoo Addiction?
Many people believe that tattoos can be addictive and are already planning their fifth tattoo because they weren’t satisfied with one or two. Is tattoo really an addiction if you can’t stop at one? Do we actually get addicted to tattoos the same way we get addicted to drugs and alcohol?
Let’s see what science has to say about it.
The Scientific Answer:
Based on the clinical definition of addiction of The American Psychiatric Association, addiction is defined as a behavior that is difficult to control and that can become compulsive over time.
Tattoos don't have compulsive characteristics. Feeling like you want more tattoos, planning multiple tattoos, and having a lot of tattoos doesn’t mean you have an addiction. Many factors may contribute to your desire for multiple tattoos, but addiction is unlikely to be one of them.
So, let’s take a closer look at the things that may be influencing your desire for more ink.
Adrenaline and Endorphins
It is true that when you get inked, your body releases certain hormones as a response to the stress or pain you feel from the needle. This is called a biological high rush triggering a sudden burst of energy and excitement.
This might cause:
- increased heart rate
- less pain
- a restless feeling
- heightened senses
- a strong feeling
Some people enjoy these above feelings so that they seek it out. Your first tattoo can stimulate your nervous system in response to pain, releasing adrenaline, which could be one of the reasons you return for more tattoos. But once again adrenaline is not a compulsive behavior that is difficult to control, thus adrenaline is not a sort of an addiction.
Also, when you get a tattoo, just like when you’re injured, your body releases endorphins, natural chemicals that relieve pain and contribute to sensations of pleasure. Endorphins are very powerful and can cause a euphoric feeling.
If you enjoyed your first tattoo, you might be looking forward to getting your next one. Part of the reason you want another tattoo may be the adrenaline and endorphins rush you feel under the needle. If getting another tattoo de-stresses you, go for it.
While tattoo addiction may not be as serious and damaging as drug or alcohol addiction, there are some psychological aspects to tattoo collecting.
What we commonly refer to as a ‘tattoo addiction’ may actually be more of a ‘tattoo passion’. A self-love or a creative self-expression. It can be exhilarating to know that the design will remain on your skin as an expression of your originality, personality, and aesthetic taste. It might even boost your self-esteem and confidence.
Some people struggle to write and talk, thus expressing themselves through a visual medium becomes a vital part of their language. For them, tattoos may be the only way people feel safe revealing their true selves to the world. Each tattoo they receive becomes a part of who they are, and this can exhilarate them and encourage them to express themselves further.
It's possible that the psychological aspect of tattoo collection is the key reason why many believe it's addictive.
Tattoos are also sought for healing purposes. When someone gets a tattoo and becomes attached to it, it can be a monument to someone they've lost, and it's something they'll be able to keep with them for the rest of their life, reminding them of the relation and connection with that person.
Others use tattoos to express endings and commemorate battles such as the end of a relationship or a battle against an addiction or cancer. In any case, the daily reminder of seeing that tattoo can be incredibly therapeutic and can aid in the healing of underlying scars that the tattoo conceals. There is nothing more powerful and addictive than the excitement of creating something that will last a lifetime on your body and keep you moving forward in a healthy and positive path.
Many people love these and other emotions that come with getting a tattoo, but these emotions do not constitute an addiction in the clinical sense. It's all in the mind!
The following are examples of signs that getting tattoos is becoming a problematic behavior:
- Too much money is being spent on tattoos
- Health concerns (i.e., allergic reactions, skin infections, bloodborne diseases)
- Tattoos on one's body are no longer meaningful or appreciated
- Having the desire to stop or taking steps to stop but yet being inked
- Thinking about, planning, and being inked obsessively
- Getting tattooed primarily for the purpose of experiencing the pain of the needle
- Using tattooing as a distraction from more significant life issues
Addiction is a serious mental health disorder but getting additional tattoos is fine if you enjoy the experience and it is safe.
However, if the experience becomes unpleasant and unpleasant to the point where it is affecting your emotional, physical, spiritual, or social well-being, it may be time to reconsider the genuine rationale for continuing to be tattooed.