Are Tattoos Actually Addictive?

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How can pain be fun? Well you never know till you try.

No, I’m not talking about whatever sexual fantasy you just made up in your head. I’m talking strictly body modifications.

It’s common knowledge that after you get one tattoo, the chances are you want to get another one. Very often people get addicted. But what is it that grips people? Nothing seems more unappealing than a needle pressuring the shit out of your thigh for two hours.

Kirby Farrell, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today “We’re social animals. It’s how we’re built… We rely on social behaviour — 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.” So if you’re ugly, you’ll have something about you that’s pretty? Cute.

I’m pretty sure that’s not what he meant. But even so, that seems a completely rational explanation. It also seems realistic that someone would get a tattoo for something to talk about, to be involved in a community or even just a conversation. But surely a hobby is something to talk about and a lot less painful.

But are tattoo’s that painful? Surely nobody would get them if they were excruciating. Scientifically, it depends on each person how painful tattoos are. Speaking from experience, I have only one tattoo; it’s on my foot and took two hours, but it was fine. Don’t get me wrong, by the end of the two hours I was all ‘’yeah alright mate, that’s enough’’, but the pain was do-able considering it was something I really wanted.

This is another factor to tattoo’s being addictive; the sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s a ‘’Aw that wasn’t too bad!’’ or a ‘’I’m glad that’s over – but it looks so sick!’’, you should still be proud of yourself for sticking it out. This links to the ‘’adrenaline rush’’ which some find addictive. It’s ‘’adrenaline rush’’ not an adrenaline rush because personally I don’t remember feeling any sort of adrenaline. To me it’s so dissimilar to the big wave of excitement I get on a roller-coaster or the euphoric collectiveness I feel at a festival.

What’s really interesting is the chemicals that are released in your body; this to a lot of people is the real reason why you may become addicted to body modifications. In reaction to the pain being caused by the needle, endorphins are released into your blood stream to help try and relieve the pain. Endorphin’s are close to adrenaline but are more of a natural rush. Endorphins are most commonly spurred on by exercise, orgasms and body mods. Surely that means tattoos are good for you?! Try explaining that to your Nan as she tuts over your new ink.


Let’s not forget the (kind of out-dated) values linked to tattoos. It’s the idea of rebellion; bad behaviour through artistic freedom. A lot of people use their skin as a way of expression, they get ink regardless even if their parents decide to disown them. It’s less likely to happen here but in Korea it’s a different story. Not only is the conservative social standards a problem, but only a doctor can legally buy, own and use a tattoo gun. Needless to say, there’s few doctors who after years are training will want to open up a tattoo parlour, nor is there aspiring tattoo artists who can afford to put themselves through medical school. Families neglect their relations just because they have tattoos. Luckily we have the freedom of expression which is highly valued in the UK.

So, the chemicals that are released into your body when you get a tattoo done are addictive, just in the same way exercising is. The social aspects are desires that people in the majority of the world are lucky enough to have. Freedom of expression is definitely something that is often taken for granted.

To find out more about the Korean tattoo industry click here.

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