Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Psychology of Shoplifting


Shoplifting is considered a form of theft and is subject to prosecution. Some shoplifters suffer from impulse control disorder and have difficulty resisting the temptation to shoplift.  These shoplifters are not impoverished and not economically disadvantaged groups. They have unwanted and intrusive thoughts about stealing from others. They are unable to resist urges even though these behaviors are disruptive to themselves and their environment and cause distress to others. Despite the deleterious effects of shoplifting these individuals engage in such acts. Often they are obsessed” with stealing and thinking about it. They have unplanned reactions to either internal or external stimuli without regard for negative consequences. Most of these shoplifters are in the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.  These behaviors are characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of shoplifting behavior with stereotyped fashion.  Often they have impaired control over mental activities. They have poor coping abilities with tendencies toward antisocial behavior.  Some researchers speculate that addiction to shoplifting may stem from problems with serotonin production.  Childhood trauma, Depression, Traumatic brain injury (TBI), and Bipolar Affective Disorder could precipitate impulsive shoplifting behaviors.  Treatments for pathological shoplifting include pharmacologic and behavioral interventions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy CBT with motivational enhancement techniques, and EMDR  have also been used to treat pathological shoplifting. 

Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D. 

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