Do Tattoos Cause Mental Disorders Or Is It The Other Way Around?

“[S]kin plays an important role in defining the ‘self’. Its modification, for example by tattooing, is a form of non-verbal communication of inner ideas or conflict within oneself or with the outside world.” – Advances in Psychiatric Treatment

By Allan Adamson, 28 Jan 2019

| Tech Times – People who have tattoos are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health issues and suffer from sleep problems, findings of new research have revealed.

[This content should not be read so as to suggest that all persons with tattoos have or will have mental health issues, but it does share information that may be of value to persons who are thinking about getting a tattoo. – Ed.]  

In a survey-based study published in International Journal of Dermatology, Karoline Mortensen, from the University of Miami, and colleagues investigated a potential association between tattoo and negative health-related outcomes and risky behaviors.

They found that having tattoos was not significantly related to overall health status.

Nonetheless, their survey, which involved more than 2,000 adults in the United States, found that people who have inked skin were more likely to suffer from mental health issues and sleep problems.

Compared with their non-tattooed counterparts, people with tattoos were also more likely to have a higher number of sex partners in the past year. They also tend to be smokers, and likely to have spent time in jail.

“Previous research has established an association between having a tattoo and engaging in risky behaviors. In an era of the increasing popularity of tattoos, even among women and working professionals, we find these relationships persist but are not associated with lower health status,” Mortensen said.

This is not the first study to find an association between tattoos and risky behavior … Read more. 

“The prevalence of tattoos is higher among people with mental disorders and those likely to come in contact with mental health services.” – Advances in Psychiatric Treatment

Reddit Health, Apr 28, 2019:

Tattoos: what is their significance?

Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, Volume 16, Issue 4

Published online: 02 January 2018

The prevalence of tattoos is higher among people with mental disorders and those likely to come in contact with mental health services.

The motivations for acquiring a tattoo are varied and tattoos can give clues to the presence of particular psychiatric conditions and to the inner world of patients.

Psychiatrists need to be aware of the health and safety issues surrounding the tattooing procedure and be able to give appropriate advice to their patients if they wish to acquire a tattoo.

Owing to the high proportion of adults who subsequently regret their tattoos and the associated psychological and social distress, clinicians should be aware of methods of tattoo removal.

“Tattooed individuals in psychiatric settings have a high prevalence of personality disorders.”

Evidence of a relationship between tattoos and psychiatric disorders comes from studies of psychiatric pathology in tattooed individuals in non-psychiatric settings (Lander 1943; Measey 1972) and of tattooed psychiatric populations (Ferguson-Rayport 1955; Gittleson 1969; Raspa 1990; Inch 1993; Williams 1998).

Both types of study report higher rates of alcoholism, drug misuse, impulsivity, risk-taking behaviour and personality disorders in both men and women (Lander 1943; Post 1968; Measey 1972; Buhrich 1982; Raspa 1990; Inch 1993).

These individuals are also more likely to have a history of self-harm, possibly as a result of a disordered personality and increased impulsivity (Goldstein 1979; Buhrich 1982).

Neuropsychiatric disability

The incidence of neuropsychiatric disability is reportedly higher in tattooed individuals. Lander & Kohn (1943) reported a 50% higher rejection rate of tattooed individuals at an army induction centre in the USA, with 58% of rejections of tattooed individuals occurring on the grounds of neuropsychiatric disability, in contrast to 38% of non-tattooed individuals.

A study by Kramish (reported in Ferguson-Rayport 1955) between 1944 and 1946 at an induction centre that screened 300 men per day found that over 90% of individuals with the ‘love tattoo’ were rejected because of neuropsychiatric disability.

Prevalence in psychiatric populations

The prevalence of tattoos in psychiatric populations is higher than in general populations and ranges from 15 to 39% … Read more. 

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