Tattoos, body piercings, and self-injury: is there a connection? Investigations on a core group of participants practicing body modification.
ABSTRACT Reliable psychosocial data about practitioners of body piercing and tattooing are few and controversial. The goal of this study was to reinvestigate the issue by studying a large sample of individuals with body modifications (BMs), focusing on the motives and relations to biographical events. A 55-item anonymous self-report questionnaire was distributed among volunteers of what is considered to be a core group of individuals wearing BMs (N=432). Results show that BMs changed the participants' attitude toward their body considerably, and 34% of all participants reported BM practices in conjunction with decisive biographical events. Twenty-seven percent of the participants admitted self-cutting during childhood. This group differed from the group without self-cutting with respect to several features before, during, and after BM. The rate of medical complications of BM was 16% in the total sample, with a remarkably higher rate (26%) among participants with a history of self-cutting. The data suggest that the significance of BMs ranges from simple peer group imitations to highly informative symptoms of possibly severe psychopathological conditions. In the latter case, BMs sometimes serve as therapeutic substitutes.