Women with eating disorders tend to be younger, have a history of depression or anxiety, and according to a new study, more likely to have been convicted of a crime.  

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More than 900,000 15-year-old females in Sweden were studied for up to 20 years for this new piece of research. Scientists looked at anorexia nervosa and bulimia diagnoses as well as criminal convictions to determine if there was a relationship between them.

They found that females with eating disorders were more likely to commit theft and various other crimes. Women diagnosed with anorexia nervosa had an incidence rate of 12 percent for petty theft and 7 percent for other convictions. About 13 percent of bulimics had a criminal history and 18 percent had stolen. Five percent of women with other eating disorders had reportedly stolen and six percent had a past criminal conviction.

"Our results highlight forensic issues as an adversity associated with eating disorders. Criminal convictions can compound disease burden and complicate treatment," study co-author Shuyang Yao said in a statement. "Clinicians should be sure to conduct routine reviews of criminal history during assessments for eating disorders."

Scientists believe this relationship could be important and that further research could help medical professionals find new treatments for eating disorders.  

The National Eating Disorders Organization says that about  20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point. The most well known are anorexia and bulimia, but other disorders include binge eating and Other Specified Feeding Or Eating Disorder (still serious, these do not meet the requirements to be classified under one of the established disorders).

According to the organization, other psychological problems are typically present with those who have eating disorders: they are four times more likely to have substance abuse problems; are more likely to have obsessive-compulsive disorder; and are at an increased risk for depression or other mood disorders.

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While there is no one single cause for eating disorders, PBS explains that people who suffer from one attempt to use food to deal with overwhelming emotions. However, eating disorders actually cause more emotional damage.

Health professionals have established that certain factors do contribute to eating disorders, including low self-esteem, loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, challenging family relationships, sexual abuse and being teased about weight.

People who steal have several similarities to patients with eating disorders. As with eating disorders, the causes for theft are complex. According to Healthline, kleptomania, those who consistently have the urge to steal, is linked to other mental illness like anxiety, substance abuse and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Low levels of serotonin can cause these impulsive behaviors. Research has found that about two-thirds of the people diagnosed with kleptomania tend to be women. The treatment for kleptomania includes therapy as well as certain medications used to treat mood disorders.

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