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Special Report: Tattoo Addiction

Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 09:23 PM EDT
Special Report: Tattoo Addiction story image

"I know a veterinarian who has his whole back tattooed in Yorkshire Terriers," aid Diamond Thieves Tattoo Shop Owner Daron James. "Says at the top 'Life is merrier with a Yorkshire Terrier.'"

A 2012 Harris Poll found that the most inked up age group was 30 to 39-year-olds, and for the first time ever, women are more likely to have a tattoo than men.

"The soccer moms are the ones that are coming in and getting tattoos ... really coming in, shocking us on a daily basis," said James.

"It's becoming more acceptable," said James of his changing clientele.

As more people are getting them - another trend has surfaced - it seems, for people like Betty Ford, one isn't enough.

"It's really hard to count," Ford says glancing over her body art, "I know over ten ... with the pain you do get an adrenaline rush, so I guess that can be a little addictive."

For every one of the people we spoke with at Asheville's Tattoo Fest, a main draw to the art was the feel of getting inked.

"Very recently, the question regarding is there such thing as tattooing addiction exists - it's more, it's just not started to be examined," said Western Carolina psychology Professor Leonardo Bobadilla.

"Anecdotally, people who do get tattoos, do report a rush - very much like people who take a substance, they feel euphoria, or a rush, however, there is very little data suggesting that people may have tolerance, or withdrawal."

Those are the two main symptoms of addiction, Bobadilla says: a person needs increasing amounts of something to be satisfied - like an alcoholic - and cannot function properly without it - for example getting the shakes.

"It would be interesting to see if there are people out there who, if they have a bad day or something bad happens, they say 'Oh I need to go get a tattoo because it just makes them feel better,' because the data are scant."

Bobadilla said he doesn't know one study that asked about dependence or emotional release in relation to tattoos.

"That is virgin territory."

By Ashlea Surles
Follow Ashlea on Twitter @AshleaSurles

Special Report: Tattoo Addiction
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