Skip to main content

When it comes to evaluating the reasons why people get tattooed, experts tend to point to psychological and sociological explanations. For example, many people get tattooed as a form of self-expression, an act of rebellion or to connect with their culture. However, could there be a chemical component to tattoo collecting? Well, if you believe in the science of tattoo addiction, there's evidence to believe just that.

In a previous article, we discussed whether or not tattoos are a legitimate addiction. Sure, people love to get more and more of them, however, there is little evidence to suggest that people develop a true dependency to them. If someone really wanted to or hand to, they could quit getting tattooed without experiencing serious symptoms of withdrawal. But, despite tattoo addiction being majorly different than addiction to alcohol or drugs, there are similar chemicals released by the brain when someone gets a tattoo. 


One of the main chemical reasons that people get tattooed is the release of adrenaline that comes with the painful process. Our sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline during times of stress, with many people becoming addicted to this rush. According to the Hormone Health Network, "Adrenaline triggers the body's fight-or-flight response. This reaction causes air passages to dilate to provide the muscles with the oxygen they need to either fight danger or flee. Adrenaline also triggers the blood vessels to contract to re-direct blood toward major muscle groups, including the heart and lungs. The body's ability to feel pain also decreases as a result of adrenaline, which is why you can continue running from or fighting danger even when injured."

This means that same people who enjoy the thrill of roller coasters or sky diving would likely get a kick out of getting tattooed.


The second chemical response that comes from the tattoo process are endorphins, which are generated in the pituitary gland and spread throughout the body by the brain. The brain releases endorphins in response to the pain experienced during a tattoo, which results in a natural high. According to Dr. Axe, "Through the production of certain neurotransmitters, the pituitary gland in your brain gets the signal to release particular endorphins depending on the situation, which then bind to neuron receptors. There’s also evidence that the immune system releases certain endorphins based on rising levels of inflammation, which is a mechanism useful for dulling pain."

Endorphins are also released during exercise and at the point of orgasm. Many people crave the rush of endorphins that they get from getting tattooed, which leads them to go under the needle again and again.


Lastly, many people become addicted to the pain itself and form an attachment to the experience in that way. I won't say that many people who get tattooed enjoy being in pain, however, there is evidence that shows that those people exist.


What do you think about the chemical reasons why people get tattooed? Why do you get tattooed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section on Facebook.