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Shoplifting, depression & mental illness

Question: My wife was caught for shoplifting and it’s actually not her first time getting arrested for stealing. I think she has a shoplifting problem because she was arrested for the same thing about a year ago. She takes things on the spur of the moment, and it’s not because she needs them or because we’re poor. We’re actually fairly well-off; I’m a dentist and she manages a high-end clothing boutique in Atlanta.

She takes things usually worth under $100. It’s cosmetics or a belt or clothes or something minimal. I know she’ll steal a book from Barnes & Noble sometimes and maybe even some silverware or a glass from a restaurant when we go out to eat like she did the other night when we ate at Avalon in Alpharetta. A employee Walmart caught her trying to shoplift but he just made her bring it back and didn’t press charges. She got lucky that time.

She’s very upset because she was arrested and our daughter’s wedding is coming up and she doesn’t want it to interfere with the wedding and she doesn’t want our daughter to find out about it. That’s partially because our daughter is a cop in Sandy Springs who wants to join the FBI and she’ll be disappointed if her mom is some sort of criminal, which she really isn’t. My wife never gets in trouble, except for these two shoplifting arrests.

I don’t know if this means anything or not, but she has recently been diagnosed with depression. She thought she might be depressed and she went to a psychologist who diagnosed her with depression. Now she’s started to see a psychiatrist who has her on medication.

I’m not sure if her mental condition has anything to do with her shoplifting, but I’d like to ask you what you know about it.

P.D. in Alpharetta, GA

Answer: As a local Georgia shoplifting lawyer, it is obvious that most people don’t engage in shoplifting because they need the product or, in most cases, because they can’t afford to buy it. Rather, shoplifting is oftentimes due to depression. Many scholarly studies have linked depression and other mental issues and shoplifting.

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, in a widely reported study, found that over 30 percent of first-time offenders were clinically depressed. The vast majority had experienced a significant loss, such as death or divorce, within the past six months prior to shoplifting.

A study in the well-regarded American Journal of Psychiatry found a link between shoplifting and impulse control, antisocial personality disorder, substance abuse, pathological gambling and bipolar disorder.

Interestingly, while some people might turn to drugs, alcohol, or binge eating, others turn to shoplifting to find solace. Many shoplifters say that it gives them a 'rush' or a 'high.' It can be a relief, if only a temporary one, as they suffer remorse and legal ramifications afterward, when they get caught.

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