By Shereen Lehman Reuters Health
Women with anorexia nervosa or bulimia are up to four times more likely to be convicted of theft – often petty thefts like shoplifting – compared to peers without eating disorders, according to results from a large Swedish study.
This increased risk of criminality in women with eating disorders is something doctors should pay attention to because convictions could increase a patient’s stress and anxiety, interrupt treatment and hamper recovery, the authors write in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, online August 9.
“The study’s findings confirm and extend what was previously known – that certain personality traits, like impulsivity, and the presence of other psychiatric disorders may confer added risk to a range of other problems, like criminal activity,” said Deborah Glasofer of Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“By no means is there evidence that all eating disorders are associated with any one particular behaviour profile, but eating disorders are serious illnesses which can impact all aspects of the afflicted individual’s life,” Glasofer told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
For example, Glasofer said, a subset of people who experience frequent binge-eating episodes – within the context of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge-eating disorder – may be driven to obtain large, often expensive, quantities of food on a regular basis and this can lead to financial duress, resulting in possible theft of food items.
“Information regarding the specific types of theft, and the motivation for this behaviour, which individuals with eating disorders were at risk for was beyond the scope of the current investigation, but this stands out as a useful issue for researchers to evaluate in future studies,” Glasofer said.
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