Most inked people will tell you tattoos are addictive. For many it just takes one session under the needle, and they're hooked for life. Yet, despite this consistency, people continue to get tattoos for vastly different reasons.
As a form of healing
For some, getting tattoos is part of a process, and many discover that after the first one, they aren't over whatever it is they're working to overcome.
Take Janine Draven of Washington DC for example:
Her lonely upbringing compelled her to get some work done. She told The Washington Post that her tattoo is representative of letting go of pain and darkness. Much of her body art revolves around music, as it was her personal form of therapy growing up.
Then, there's this man:
Reeling from a heartbreak he headed to Matt Jessup at Fatty's tattoo shop to piece himself back together. As the Post reported, what started out as a rib piece ended up turning into a full-back tatt.
Fatty listened to his client's story as he inked, and the two decided together that the piece wouldn't be complete after just one visit. It was a way to express the painstaking and unwanted side effects most people experience after parting ways from a loved one.
Still, healing through fresh ink is only one of many reasons why people get work done. For others, the explanation doesn't go more than skin-deep.
To mask imperfection
Some people view tattoos as a way to escape their physical appearance, or rather enhance it. Psychology lecturer at Newman University Stuart Ross keeps his vitiligo, a disease that causes blotchy skin, under wraps with body art.
He told BBC that's why he's gone ahead and inked the majority of his upper body, armpits included. Ross, who's actually studied the psychology of tattoo motivation, isn't alone in his rationale.
Twelve photos and personal stories posted to Oddee demonstrate the popularity of using a tattoo as a means to cover something up. One woman lifted her shirt for "before" and "after" photos of a large scar that extended underneath and just above her belly button.
In the "after" image, you can barely notice anything aside from the pinkish long-stemmed roses along her stomach. The scars were from a previous surgery. Still, physical and spiritual reasons only cover a fraction of inked Americas. Others may decide to get body art as a form of protest – more so now than ever, maybe.
In response to the economy
People who may have been reluctant to get body art a decade ago are lining up for permanent ink in response to the frustrations expressed in regard to the elusive "American dream." As Psychology Today explained, in a work landscape where people might make 40 percent less than recent grads a decade ago, people are hungry to reach certain goals despite current obstacles.
People are determined to make it in America, so much so that they're willing to engrave it on their bodies, literally. But America is just one country of course. The bigger picture is that tattoos in general may be how people handle conflict. Pictures, quotes, song lyrics and other forms of expression tell the tales of history – and the list goes on and on.
Is there a bad reason to get a tattoo?
With this much versatility behind tattoo decisions, it raises the question "Is there a wrong reason to get one?" and perhaps the answer isn't one-dimensional. It all depends on who you ask. However, when it all comes down to it, only you know your history, physique and means for coping with hardship, which means no one knows better than you if the decision is right.
Though, you don't have to live with tattoo regret, if you feel like the wrong factor motivated your ink. Consider laser tattoo removal if you're unhappy about your body art.
Over 45 million US adults* are living with tattoos, but now permanent ink can be a thing of the past. PicoSure® is the world's latest breakthrough technology in laser tattoo removal providing faster results in fewer treatments. Visit www.picosurear.wpengine.com to learn more and find a PicoSure Practitioner near you. * Source: Harris Interactive, 2012