Is Getting Tattooed Really An Addiction?

21inkedd in Stories

A large percentage of people who get tattooed return to the needle for more ink, but is getting tattooed really an addiction?

People have been tattooing and marking their bodies for thousands of years, often for sacred and ceremonial reasons early tattoos were rather primitive and nothing like the tattoos of today. In tattooing today there are thousands of images, designs and dozens of styles but there is also a very common question asked in modern day tattooing; are tattoos addictive?

Are Tattoos Really An Addiction?
Are Tattoos Really An Addiction?

The debate for whether tattoos are addictive or not is an ongoing one, and one that may never have a fully supported answer. Of the estimated 45 million US citizens who are tattooed around 32% say that tattoos are addictive. A popular proposal for why tattoos might be addictive is actually the pain they involve. Some theorize that the pain caused when getting a tattoo is where the addiction lies, that it is a form of euphoric rush or psychological effect.

Tattoo by Nissaco
Tattoo by Nissaco

Kirby Farrell, Ph.D. however argues for a different reasoning behind tattoo addiction, one more focused on the aesthetic values of ink and the reasoning that people are addicted to tattoos for the attention tattoos get the!!

"Tattoos idealize youth and fertility by drawing eyes to youthful skin and often erotic parts of the body...We're social animals. It's how we're built... We rely on social behavior — attention — to substantiate us and make us feel real." "Tattoos promise to make you attractive, as if you have a personal force akin to gravity. Notice me," The more attraction you command, the more attention you get, and the more life you have — as we see in the public's devotion to celebrities and leaders." -Dr Kirby Farell

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Why Do Most Tattooed People Return To The Needle??
Why Do Most Tattooed People Return To The Needle??

Psychologist Dr. Viren Swami on the other hand thinks it is misleading to look at tattoos as an addiction when considering the evidence for it.

“I think that the short answer is that we don’t know. We don’t know whether it’s a real thing or not. And most people who study it suggest that it’s too early in terms of the research where tattoos specifically are a form of addiction...“If you give them a list of possible motivations for getting tattoos, addiction is one of the most poorly rated" -Dr. Viren Swami

Tattoo by California Electric Tattoo Parlour
Tattoo by California Electric Tattoo Parlour

A more likely scenario is that once you have a tattoo you are simply more likely to get another because the interest is their and you have already been through the process. Moreover the fact that tattoos are more socially accepted means people are more likely to get inked and thereafter more likely to return to the tattoo shop for more work.

Of course there is also the personal motivation behind tattoos, in that people get tattooed to commemorate loved ones, milestones, life events and important memories, all of which can be done in multiple tattoos. So where someone sees addiction another will see a story in ink.

Geisha Tattoo by Dagger & Lark Tattoo
Geisha Tattoo by Dagger & Lark Tattoo

Quite honestly the question of whether tattoos are addictive or not is one that will never have a true answer, every person with a tattoo got it for a different reason with different motivation. So why not just enjoy the body art without trying to determine whether they are addicted to an electric needle and ink!

21inkedd

@Robert Davies

Tattoodo Staff Writer and tattoo enthusiast. Lover of all things traditional and blackwork!

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