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by Sandra Prior
Some women steal because they're destitute, but others do it for a cheap thrill or as a way of treating themselves to little luxuries they can't afford. With the world facing all-round rising costs, more women feel they're being deprived and that life isn't fair, and some convince themselves this entitles them to a steep discount on the things they want - 100% off, to be exact.
Our current depressive economic situation could result in more women shoplifting as a way to feel better. These women might have a feeling of ‘I have been taken from’ and so stealing offers - momentarily - relief and a feeling that they've made life fair again.
Shoplifting for emotional reasons can develop into a secret addiction for otherwise decent, law-abiding women. These typically good girls know right from wrong and have the money to pay for what they steal. The stealing is not done for personal gain. This kind of shoplifting is the result of psychological problems. It's not clear why, but shoplifting seems to be more common among women.
Actress Bai Ling was arrested in March 2008 for allegedly trying to steal a pack of batteries and two magazines worth $16,22 from a store at Los Angeles International Airport. She later said she was having an 'emotionally crazy' time because she'd just broken up with her boyfriend. Then there's Peaches Geldof, who's been caught three times leaving a store with clothes she'd 'forgotten' to pay for. These cases illustrate that the problem underlying the affliction isn't financial but psychological - even the rich and famous are vulnerable.
For shoplifters there's an excitement of 'getting away with it' that creates a high. As this high temporarily relieves negative feelings such as depression, frustration or anger, the addiction quickly develops.
Some people use shoplifting as a way to compensate for feelings of loss resulting from a divorce, a serious illness or a death, for instance. For others it's justified payback for being unfairly deprived in some way or to make up for something that's missing in their lives. Most shoplifters steal more frequently around their birthday and holiday times as many people find these to be the most depressive periods of the year.
Shoplifting can also be a maladaptive way of coping with stressful life circumstances - similar to overeating, drinking or doing drugs. In fact, many shoplifters are cross-addicted, which means they have other addictions such as alcohol, drugs or eating disorders to deal with too. They may also have a coexisting psychiatric illness such as depression or anxiety disorder.
Even though most feel guilty or remorseful and fear getting caught, the pull is usually too strong for them to resist. Many are also too ashamed or afraid to tell anyone or to ask for help.
Arrests, fines and jail terms stop some shoplifters from repeating the crime but chronic shoplifters often need therapy as well. The best treatment is a combination of medication - certain antidepressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been shown to reduce these impulses - and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
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