Ink-redible! How tattoos can help us cope with stress and improve immune system

With a recipe of adrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins, it’s easier to understand why so many people describe tattooing as ‘addictive’.

Those of us with inkings etched all over our body already know the power that a tattoo can give to our identity.

And now it looks like science is backing what we innately feel.

Due to the chemical reaction that takes place in the brain while going under the needle, it is now believed that personal artwork can improve our immune systems.

Chatting about the process, psychotherapist Mark Bailey spoke about the physiological reaction that takes place between mind and body during a sesh at the tattoo parlour.

[Credit: Mohammed Faruque]

Mark explained: “It all starts with the anticipation phase, when your brain experiences a rush of adrenaline and dopamine.

“This can feel exciting and a bit scary, similar to riding a rollercoaster or a first date.

“Once the needle touches your skin, you produce adrenaline.

“This can then help mask some of the pain although from experience, it doesn’t always feel like any pain is being masked.”

[Credit: Lucas Lenzi]

He continued: “Then come the endorphins. You know that amazing mood boost you get after an intense gym session? The tattooing process has the same effect.

“These feel-good chemicals reduce your perception of the pain in the same way as drugs like morphine or codeine. You’ll also feel a ‘natural high’.”

Speaking to Happiful magazine, Mark also revealed there is research to suggest that getting multiple tattoos may affect someone’s long-term ability to cope with anxiety and improve their immune system by reducing the release of stress-hormone cortisol.

With this recipe of adrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins, it’s easier to understand why so many people describe tattooing as ‘addictive’ and often think of their next design the second the artist has finished working on their present one.

[Credit: Jake Davies]

Co-editor of Things & Ink magazine, Rosalie Hurr, also spoke to wellbeing magazine Happiful about her experience with body art and what it means for her mentally.

She said: “At the beginning of the tattoo appointment I feel nervous and excited, then I settle into the pain like, ‘This is okay, I can cope with this’.

“There is definitely a buzz, especially if your tattooist is excited to do the tattoo too, and seeing the finished piece at the end is amazing.

“But there is also exhaustion, and it can take a lot out of me to push through the pain.”

Rosalie added: “As someone with anxiety, this is a huge achievement.

“Throw in the mix the time spent in an uncomfortable position, and the pain of the actual tattoo, and I am a goddamn warrior.”

[Credit: Julia Giacomini]

Meanwhile, Dr Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray, a lecturer at Kings University College, says getting inked has helped her experiences of PTSD, depression, and auto-immune disease.

She added: “I’ve been tattooing over old self-harm marks, and that has helped me come to terms with my past and move forward to a better relationship with my body and mind.

“I can see the old marks through the tattoos, but no one else knows they are there, so it’s not really a secret, they’re right there, but only I know where to look to find them in the colourful patterns and shading.”

Over at Uspire, we can relate! With all of our team having multiple inkings, we’re forever itching for new appointments to complete our collections.

Looks like we might have to get booked in again soon…


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