Eating disorders linked to history of theft: study



Although epidemiological data are lacking, clinical observations and preliminary studies suggest an association between stealing behavior and eating disorders. Stealing appears to be strongly associated with bulimic symptoms in patients with eating disorders, and the presence of stealing behavior may serve as a marker of eating-disorder severity. The apparent connection between the two problems is discussed, and nine putative explanatory factors are examined: starvation-induced mental dysfunction, effects of medications, affective spectrum disorder, personality disorder, psychodynamic features, dissociative phenomena, tension reduction, pseudopubertal impulsivity, and sociocultural influences. Various combinations of these factors may operate in any particular patient. One of the challenges to our current understanding is the scarcity of information regarding the prevalence and distribution of stealing behavior in the general population. Areas for future research are suggested and include epidemiological surveys to investigate the proposed connection between stealing and eating disorders, examination of the effects of legal intervention, systematic study of the treatment of stealing in patients with eating disorders, and longitudinal studies exploring prognostic implications of stealing behavior.


Dear Readers,


Please find below an interesting article that was published in Gulf Times several years back. This article was sent to us by a carer:

“This article has made me realise that my daughter has developed a semi permanent habit of stealing food. I thought this  was an ED behaviour. She has never stolen from a general store, but she’s helpless when it comes to food. At restaurant the food ends up in her container and same happens when we are invited outside. she simply takes food, stating, I’ll eat later. There have been numerous complaints about her behaviour and this section from ED review really puts things into perspective for me that we need to address her behaviour in therapy. I hope my sharing may help others.”  Mrs Ahmed Houston




Theft and eating disorders—especially bulimia nervosa—have been linked in the past.  This is true for theft of food, perhaps due to the cost of BN symptoms (Mitchell, Comp Psychiatry 1992; 32:342). However, kleptomania and eating disorders have been linked, too. Kleptomania, or repetitive theft with uncontrollable urges to steal, is relatively uncommon but not well appreciated and affects about 11% of people in the U.S., according to one large epidemiologic study. A recent article describes the connection between stealing and having an eating disorder.

Jon E. Grant, MD, and Samuel R. Chamberlain, MD, PhD, recently examined candidates for kleptomania severity as defined in the DSM-5. They tied frequency of urges to steal and reporting feeling a positive reaction from the act of stealing to anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (Ann Clin Psychiatry.2018; 30:97).  The authors found that worsening kleptomania symptoms were associated with more frequent stealing urges and more excitement from stealing. In terms of diagnosis, co-occurrence with OCD, AN, and BN were tied to increased kleptomania severity.

This fits with prior work. In 2008, Dr. M. Takemura and colleagues started a registration system for patients suffering from habitual theft, which recorded 1430 cases between 2008 and 2016 (Brain Nerve. 2016; 68:1177; article in Japanese). The Japanese researchers found that the most common co-occurring disorder was BN.

The authors concluded that aspects of reward and compulsivity are both strongly associated with the severity of the disorder, and should be addressed in treatment.


We share the article below for research and information purpose only.



Eating disorders linked to history of theft: study


By Shereen Lehman Reuters Health

Sunday، 20 August 2017 11:06 PM

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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Islam and Eating Disorders founded in 2012 – run by Maha Khan, the blog creates awareness of Eating Disorders in the Muslim world, offers information and support for sufferers and their loved ones.

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