Is there a Link Between Shoplifting and Mental Illness?

Most of us have heard of stories of celebrities who were arrested for shoplifting. These are rich people who don’t steal because they can’t afford food for their kids. However, some studies point to a link between mental illness and larceny from stores.

Experts point to a possible link between shoplifting and mental illness
Is there a link between shoplifting and mental illness?

A report in Psychology Today referred to research carried out by Pathways Institute for Impulse Control about kleptomania and compulsive stealing behaviors.

The report said people steal for a wide range of reasons, ranging from poverty to criminality.  However, research on dopamine levels found people can become addicted to stealing in a similar way to alcohol, gambling, and drugs.

Psychological disorders like bipolar disorder, severe depression, anxiety, and kleptomania may be linked to shoplifting. People with impulse disorders often have co-occurring mood disorders and other cluster problem behaviors and addictions, Psychology Today noted.

Although police and courts are often less than sympathetic to underlying mental health issues linked to a shoplifting charge, in some cases, there are clear links between stealing and mental illness.

The Mayo Clinic classifies kleptomania as a mental disorder and an impulse control issue. Sufferers experience an inability to resist urges to steal items that they usually do not need and are of little value. The clinic defines kleptomania as a “rare but serious mental health disorder that can cause much emotional pain to you and your loved ones if not treated.”

Shoplifting can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense in Arizona. The seriousness of the offense depends on the value of the goods or services that are stolen. When the value of an item stolen is over $1,000, the offense is charged as a felony.

In certain jurisdictions in Arizona, people who commit shoplifting can go into diversionary programs. These are often helpful for people with mental disorders and illnesses. Incarceration can have a very detrimental effect on people who suffer from mental illnesses. The environment of a jail or a prison can exacerbate their symptoms.

If you or a family member with a mental illness has been charged with shoplifting, please call our Phoenix criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.