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Independent expert answers
on psychiatry and psychology

Shoplifting and Depression

Abstract: Can shoplifting be associated with some mental disease?

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Shoplifting and Depression

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Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:

First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 31 Jul 2008.

Can shoplifting be associated with some mental disease?

Answer:

Sometimes, psychiatrists and psychologists are asked to assess someone who has been charged with stealing from shops. There are different opinions about the possible pathology of shoplifters.

Some clinical studies have overemphasized one particular scenario: a middle aged lady, without previous convictions or criminal offence history, who is charged with taking from a shop something that she could easily have paid for and, in any case, something she has no need or use for.

On psychiatric examination she recites a tale of domestic woe in which episode her attention lapsed. She may be depressed, although whether this preceded or followed arrest is often difficult to establish exactly.

Inattentiveness or forgetfulness of depressive origin undoubtedly occurs, but should not be overestimated as a cause of theft. Since, in our culture, theft from shops and supermarkets constitutes a massive problem for retail industry. And the great majority of perpetrators are young, mentally well, and don't get caught.

As a matter of fact, the proportion of shoplifters with psychiatric disorders is probably no more than five percent.

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