Getting inked is a growing trend for the baby boomers of this generation. We are going to be strange elderly people when we are older, still covered in morbid art or scrawled cursive letters and symbols. Many people become addicted to getting tattooed or pierced because they like the way it pinches or “tickles”. Many people find the pain arousing, and others have jumped on the bandwagon to “fit in” with the modern generation. We are the troubled generation, and body modification has never been so popular. But is body modification just another form of self-harm or self-injury?
Self-injury has been a problem across our culture for decades; it is not a new issue. It involves committing harm to oneself to punish or feel a certain level of pain in attempt to self-medicate. When someone experiences even a small cut or injury, the brain releases endorphins, causing the person to feel medicated, but only briefly. It is possible for one to become addicted to the feeling of self-made pain such as that produced after a cut or a bruise to ones own body. A person with an addiction to self-harm or self-injury experiences relapse and withdrawal symptoms similar to that experienced by someone with a drug addiction. The act of self-harm becomes a drug to them, and they begin to self-inflict to feel release for emotions, or to experience a temporary escape through the pain. The pain becomes their only concern, and the stress of emotions they were experiencing begins to fade away to nothing.
When I was a teenager, about thirteen years old, I too fell into the danger zone. I began to turn to cutting myself in attempt to escape the world of depression and intense emotions that I existed in. After a while, the dozens of slashes I produced on my arms and thighs could no longer make me feel “medicated”. I began to turn to heavier afflictions such as tattoos and piercings. The pain produced by the needles was similar to the pain of the scissors or razorblade across my skin, but it felt better because I wasn’t hurting myself to the same degree, and I was still experiencing the pain I craved. On a brighter side, the art of body modification soon replaced my dangerous addiction to self-harm.
Those that suffer from drug addiction or addiction to self-injury often begin getting inked or pierced as a way to recover. The pain of getting inked or pierced can be compared to the pain of self-made cuts or burns on the skin, and the endorphins released during the process can leave some people feeling “high” or elated. Though many people choose to get tattooed or pierced in place of harming themselves in other ways, the act of body modification is not similar to suicide or self-harm directly. Body modification acts as a simulation for self-injury but in a healthier way, because typically a professional is doing the act of tattooing or piercing. Tattoos and piercings don’t harm the individual when done correctly at a specialized body modification shop by a licensed professional. They do not harm any one involved, they are just an alternative lifestyle that some people crave.
A prominent difference between self-harm and body modification is the idea of pride. A person with a fresh tattoo or piercing is proud of their accomplishment. They wear their ink or piercing like a badge of honor for enduring the pain. A person who self-injures is more likely to cover their wounds in shame than to show them off to the public. Tattoos and piercings are more accepted by society than a self-made scar.
If you know someone suffering from self-injury, or you are suffering yourself, go get inked or pierced. Art is a savior when you fall into a danger zone. Go create something with your pain; even if it’s on your body, it’s a healthier and more accepted way to escape.