How Anxiety Tattoos Can Change Your Life
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 18, 2018
Reviewer Tiffany Howard, LPC, LCADC
When it comes to anxiety, people cope with it in different ways. Some will take to social media and blog about their experiences, and make sure others are listening. They may talk about what people don't understand about anxiety, or just post relatable memes.
Some people have their therapy system to help combat anxiety. This can be done by a professional or self-taught. They may find themselves devoting time to learning different techniques that will prevent or reduce the severity of an episode.
Some use medication. It's okay to take medicine that helps reduce your risk of having an episode. As long as you're not suffering from any ill side effects, you're good.
But there's a new trend that's renovating how some handle anxiety, and that's through tattoos.
Tattoos are versatile and up to the owner. Some people get tattoos because they look interesting and make them stand out. Others may get a tattoo of something they like. There are some who think tattoos must have a deep meaning, and may never get a tattoo because they can't think of anything sacred enough to put on their body.
The point is there's no wrong way to get a tattoo. One reason why people may get a tattoo is for therapeutic reasons.
Some reasons a person may do this:
For a lost loved one. You've probably seen people who will get tattoos for their deceased relatives or friends. They may have their birth and death date, a portrait of them, or maybe something a little more subtle. For example, if your friend liked a certain TV show, you may get a tattoo of a character on there.
To relieve emotional pain. Going through a traumatic event can be tough. From a bad breakup to financial difficulties, times kind be tough. Getting a tattoo to symbolize the struggle can be a therapeutic way to know you've moved on from that trouble, and as a way for you to say that this is now, that was then.
For survival. If someone has survived cancer or any other deadly disease or situation, tattoos make good reminders of what you've gone through. There have been women who have tattooed their chest after a mastectomy to remind them of surviving breast cancer. It's a way to tell yourself that you're a strong person, and what tries to kill you becomes a trophy on your body, never to harm you again.
For mental disorders. Having a tattoo that reminds you of the struggles you're going through on the inside can be quite relieving. For one, it shows the world what's going on inside, and helps to invite people who may be struggling with the same mental condition. Some use symbols, like the puzzle piece for autism, while others may try to be subtle. Anxiety tattoos have become a good way to relieve sufferers.
Does It Work?
Those who aren't in the tattoo scene may be confused. For some, having a reminder that your friend died or you survived a traumatic experience on your body, that you'll have to see every day, seems like it would be quite triggering. Some may say you should move on and forget the past.
For those who have tattoo therapy, they don't see it that way. Tattoos are a way to close a part of your life. Think of your memories as an art gallery. You're proudly displaying your past in a way that respects it and tells you not to forget it, but it brings forth a historical feeling of closure.
Those who get tattoos may find relief from the pain. As the tattoo is etched on them, and they're thinking of what it symbolizes, they're struggling one more time, and it's a way for them to move on to the next stage.
What Does Science Say?
There are plenty of treatments and therapies that people swear by, but end up being placebos at best and dangerous at worst. Is tattoo therapy scientifically backed?
Plenty of psychologists are seeing the benefits of tattoo therapy. It certainly is not a one-size-fits-all way of coping, and there will be people who will benefit more from doing something else, but it's becoming more acceptable as a form of grieving.
And while this isn't the same as actual tattoos, something similar to tattooing can one day be the way we fight against the autoimmune disease. Some scientists have discovered that rice-made nanoparticles tattooed under the skin can help boost immunity. While this won't happen for quite some time, it's a look into the future of battling autoimmune diseases.
Tattoos have been used for medical reasons too. Besides marking where certain parts are during surgery, armies have tattooed information about soldiers, and during breast reconstruction, the areola and missing pigmentation may be tattooed as well.
Tattoos For Anxiety
When it comes to anxiety, what kinds of tattoos do most people like to get? If you look up anxiety tattoos online, you'll see tattoos that are encouraging and may have messages. It symbolizes the fact that people who have anxiety tattoos are happy people who just have their moments. Some find therapy in looking at their tattoos and reminding themselves that everything will be all right.
Here are a few typical tattoos people with my anxiety may get.
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that makes people feel happy. Of course, the brain is a little more complex than that, but the spirit of the idea makes people tattoo the molecule on themselves. It's a little reminder that your moods are just chemicals in the brain, and also a way to encourage happiness.
Another tattoo that's good for anxiety is a little message or phrase that tells you that everything is going to be all right. Some may say phrases like "this too shall pass" or "it's going to be okay" as a way to remind themselves that their episode is just temporary, and when the storm ends, everything is going to be okay.
Some also see a message stuck in your body to be more powerful than saying the same message aloud or reading it.
Others may want a tattoo that brings forth a feeling of tranquility, like a waterfall, a beautiful butterfly, or anything else that's soothing or cute. Looking at your body and reminding yourself that you're going to be all right is a good way to make yourself feel better.
A Hidden Message
There are some who put words on their body, but they mean something else when viewed from a different angle. For example, you can get a tattoo that says "I'm fine," when viewed from your average person, but from your angle, it's upside down, and the letters read "save me." It's a way to symbolize the fact that just because someone looks okay, they may not be. Some have battles on the inside that they must conquer, and everyone should realize that.
Think of something that makes you happy and makes you remember better times. It can be a TV show, a place, or anything that has ever made you feel bliss. Get a tattoo of that and travel back in time whenever you feel an episode coming. It won't be a substitute for going there, but the memories can help relieve the pain you're feeling.
Anything You Want
If you're thinking about getting a tattoo for yourself, it can be whatever you feel like. If you want to get a tattoo you found online; there's no shame in that. If you want to make something new and important to yourself, that's good too. Tattoos are flexible like that, and there isn't one anxiety tattoo that works for everyone. Some like subtlety, others like the message spelled out.
Are Tattoos Right for Me?
If you've never gotten a tattoo in general, and are thinking about it, why not do some research? Figure out the cost of a tattoo in your area, talk to some people who have them, and see a specialist. If you're scared of the pain, look up some pain charts. There are some areas of your body where it will hurt a lot less.
If you don't like the idea of it being permanent, you can always look into temporary tattoos as well. Tattoos like henna are good for experimenting, and to see if tattoos are right for you or not.
Tattoo therapy can be a powerful tool in fighting anxiety, but if you aren't receiving professional help as well, you should. A combination of self-help, professional therapy, and medication are great tools in fighting the battle of anxiety, and if you're not incorporating them all, you could be missing out on some much-needed help.
Luckily, there are online therapists out there who are affordable and can help you on your journey to conquer anxiety.
Every treatment option is valid as long as you're feeling better.