Can I really get addicted to tattoos?

Some people can become addicted to the endorphin rush of getting a tattoo, which is similar to the runners experience.

Many tattooed individuals jokingly alert friends who are getting their first ink that they are addictive, and it’s hard to stop with just one. This gave rise to the idea that it is possible to get addicted to tattoos. This is a little misleading, however; Addiction is extremely complicated, and while people can get tattoos compulsively, it rarely crosses the threshold into truly addictive behavior.

A person getting a tattoo.

Addiction itself can be difficult to define, and the language used to describe addiction has changed in response to more information about how the brain works. As a general rule, an addiction is described as something that someone depends on, physically or psychologically, and sometimes both. For example, heroin addicts develop a physical dependence on heroin because the drug actually changes their brain chemistry, and gambling addicts are addicted to the process and experience of the game on a psychological level.

Woman with tattoos on her arm and back.

When someone becomes addicted to something, he or she may engage in harmful behavior in search of the experience or chemical needed to satisfy physical or emotional needs. Addicts have a hard time prioritizing their life choices, opting for another dose of an addictive substance instead of paying a utility bill, for example. They persist with their behavior despite the physical, economic and social consequences.

Large tattoo being applied.

The tattooing process is certainly emotionally and physically intense. Some people get them for complex personal reasons, and the experience of drawing and inking a tattoo can have meaning. Physically, the process causes the body to release high levels of endorphins to deal with pain, the same endorphins that are released during strenuous exercise and other periods of physical stress. Many people say that actions like running make them feel good, thanks to the endorphin release.

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A tattoo machine.

For someone to be considered addicted to tattoos, he or she would have to become physically or emotionally dependent on the process. In some cases, this can happen. Some people use tattoos to assuage emotional pain, for example, while others may get attached to the flow of endorphins released during the inking process. If someone chooses to get a new one instead of facing a situation, or pay for a tattoo before securing the rent, he or she could be hooked.

A person would have to become physically or emotionally dependent on the tattooing process to be addicted.

Becoming truly addicted to tattoos is, in all likelihood, extremely rare. People with multiple tattoos can cite a variety of reasons for wanting multiple pieces of art on their body, with some commemorating various life events or symbolizing important concepts for the wearer. Because of the complex social and personal issues surrounding tattooing, it can be difficult to distinguish true addiction from simple aesthetic appreciation. As some people are used to negative reactions to body art, they may also resist the suggestion that they are addicted and need treatment, which is something to consider before staging an intervention.

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