True, at least among forensic psychiatric patients according to this preliminary research. The article suggests that assessing individuals in the context of a forensic evaluation, the presence of tattoos should alert the evaluator of a possible diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. The article also indicates that the presence of tattoos might signal potential histories for substance abuse, suicide attempts, and/or sexual abuse. From the article:
“Our findings suggest that forensic psychiatric inpatients with tattoos are significantly more likely to suffer from ASPD than those without tattoos, and patients with ASPD were also significantly more likely to have higher numbers of tattoos, a larger percentage of their body covered with tattoos, and tended to have tattoos in more visible locations" said lead researcher Dr. William Cardasis, of CFP, Michigan. "I hope that this provides clues for clinicians to look for ASPD in forensic psychiatric patients with tattoos, and also to look for signs of suicide attempt, substance abuse, and sexual abuse."
The authors caution the research examined the presence of tattoos and the associated mental health issues only within the confines of this small sample, and that these results to not generalize to the population at large. The article also offers a brief but accurate description of Antisocial Personality Disorder, a diagnosis extremely common among criminals and inmates.
However, this research does not actually appear to be all that useful, for a couple of reasons. First of all, any individual being evaluated in an inpatient forensic setting ought to be assessed for all of the mental health symptoms cited above, regardless of appearance. Simply put, upon the person’s arrival at such a facility, a screening for any currently significant issues should be completed, as well as a thorough examination of issues such as substance abuse history, suicide attempts etc., as the evaluation is conducted. A really not sure under what circumstances the presence or absence of tattoos would have any impact on the gathering of this information.
The other issue would be assigning a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. This is a primary diagnosis considered whenever anybody is referred for an evaluation such as this, and as part of any reasonable forensic evaluation, the necessary records regarding the individual’s background (which will generally provide all the information necessary for such a diagnosis, particularly individual’s criminal history) will have been obtained and reviewed. Whether an individual has tattoos or not is irrelevant, as these records will be requested regardless. Given that this information is not only necessary for any forensic evaluation, but will also be necessary in order to actually make a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder, the correlation the researchers have identified may be interesting, but not very useful.