Shoplifting and Depression in Eastenders?

What can Alice tell us about shoplifting and depression?  We have seen for some weeks that Alice has been taking items from shops and stalls that do not belong to her in this storyline. She has been overwhelmed and caught up in a dreadful custody battle between her friend and employer only months after losing her father whom she loved dearly.  Recently she has confessed to her brother about her problem, but what is her problem, is she just greedy?

Research shows there are clear links between shoplifting and depression. According to the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) in the states approximately 1/3rd of people caught shoplifting have depression in some form. They suggest the taking of something that doesn’t belong temporarily relieves pressure or stress that the person maybe suffering and gives that feeling of a high just for a short while. The high is an alternative to the sadness and lows of depression or the anxiety that can be a constant. Of course the high can become addictive and in extreme cases kleptomania can develop. In the UK are aware of high profile cases in where a celebrity like Anthony Worrall Thompson for example was caught lifting cheese. In this context it’s easy to understand that this is a man of usually good social standing who was being driven by an emotional need rather than a physical one. Rational thought processing can be quite elusive when you are caught up in the myriad of depression or anxiety, it can feel like a constant battle to just get through the day let alone try to challenge instinctive behavioural desires no matter how socially unacceptable.

Further research by NASP talks about how young people who often say ‘I don’t know!’ when asked why they have done it, but peer pressure and the desire to fit in can causes such distress in teenagers that shoplifting may look like a solution to relieve the pressure they feel in the short term. The buzz from having something new or getting something you want soon wears off and the depressive feelings return.

So the phrase ‘a cry for help’ is true in this scenario, Alice does need help. She needs to understand why she is doing this and to get some professional support to help her deal with her sadness and loss that is potentially part of this. Depression is a natural part of the grieving process but you don’t have to have lost a person or a pet to feel the impact of loss. Loss comes in many forms through various life changes like redundancy, loss of a relationship, loss of good health but these are just a few scenarios that can lead to depression type symptoms and feelings. Shoplifting could be one of the symptoms of depression so if you or someone you know is doing this don’t be afraid to get some professional help – you may wish to read more about depression, loss/bereavement or counselling.

Details of the American NASP web site are here.