In an analysis of nearly 960,000 females, individuals with eating disorders were more likely to be convicted of theft and other crimes. The results suggested that incidences of theft and other convictions were 12 percent and seven percent, respectively, in those with anorexia nervosa - lack or loss of appetite for food; 18 percent and 13 percent in those with bulimia nervosa - an emotional disorder characterised by a distorted body image and 5 percent and 6 percent in those without eating disorders.
‘Eating disorders defy classification solely as mental illnesses as they not only involve considerable psychological impairment, but they are also associated with serious medical complications.’
The associations with theft conviction remained in both anorexia and bulimia nervosa even when adjusting for psychiatric comorbidities and for familial factors. The findings indicated that research is needed to investigate the potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between crime and eating disorder psychopathology, as well as efforts to determine how best to address this relationship in treatment.
Lead study author Shuyang Yao said that the results highlight forensic issues as an adversity associated with eating disorders. Criminal convictions can compound disease burden and complicate treatment. Clinicians should be sure to conduct routine reviews of criminal history during assessments for eating disorders, Yao added. The research appears in journal of Eating Disorders.