Is there a psychological connection to shoplifting?

Does shoplifting have a connection to a mental disorder or personality trait? Find out about the links to shoplifting and the psyche.

Shoplifting is a common crime. Those who shoplift come from all walks of life, including celebrities and affluent people. Many wonder why people who seem to have it all would steal something instead of just paying for it like everyone else. What may not be well-known is shoplifting has a link to psychological issues. For some people, taking something illegally provides them with a psychological benefit. It is not really about the actual item stolen but more about the way the stealing makes them feel.

Reasons for Shoplifting

According to Psychology Today, people may shoplift for various reasons with most of them not relating at all to a lack of money or a need for the item being taken. A couple common reasons include an addiction to stealing and a mental disorder that encourages the behavior. For example, people may suffer from an impulse disorder, which makes it difficult for them to stop themselves from taking something. Another possible reason is damage to the brain, such as an injury, which prevents a person form understanding or even knowing taking something without paying for it is wrong.

Psychological Factors

It is thought in many cases there is a psychological factor behind the crime, especially when the accused person has no obvious need to steal because they have the money to pay for it or are in a position where being convicted would bring bad publicity. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, psychological issues are often behind this act.

While it has been found depression is often present in about a third of all shoplifters, another mental disorder that may be at play is kleptomania. It was believed that actual cases of kleptomania were quite rare, but it has been found it is becoming more common.

To be a true diagnosis of kleptomania, people must meet certain criteria. They must feel extreme tension before committing the act and then feel pleasure or relief afterwards. They also need to have no other possible disorder, such as bipolar mania, antisocial personality disorder or conduct disorder. They should not be committing the act because they are upset, anger or suffering a hallucination or delusion. Finally, they need have failed at stopping themselves from stealing.

Ties to Personality

Beyond disorders, personalities may also play a role in shoplifting, according to Psych Central. A study done showed people who shoplift may often be characterized as unorganized, unreliable, unfriendly and antisocial. Also, being young and male plays into the profile. The thought is a person's personality may lead them to be more likely to shoplift than other people.

While not every act of shoplifting can be linked to a psychological factor, many are. For assistance or information on shoplifting, you can visit the website of Joseph J. Colarusso, Attorney at Law.