Relation Between Mental Illness and Crime
Symptoms of Panic Disorder (on the left) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (on the right)
Anxiety is an emotional experience in which a person feels discomfort from an uncertain perspective. Unlike the usual short-term stress associated with a public speaking engagement, the disorder lasts for a long time, such as months or more. Both psychological and physical ailments can accompany excessive anxiety, tension, and fear experienced by patients with anxiety disorders. Thus, the fundamental difference between disorders of the anxiety type and other diseases is that physical ailments are a consequence of disorders of this type and are not signs of them. Anxiety interferes with a person’s ability to think soberly, make deliberate decisions, and take valuable actions. The most effective way to treat them is a combination of medication and psychotherapy sessions.
While experiencing a panic attack, people are unable to control their actions, which can lead them to commit crimes. The same can be said about patients diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Their hypersensitivity can cause them to try to destroy an imaginary external source of anxiety under the influence of fear, thereby breaking the law (Gu et al., 2020). The anxious type pays very much attention to his or her safety (Gu et al., 2020). They see the threat even in insignificant manifestations; they ensure safety by avoiding the sources from which the real and imaginary threat comes. When danger arises, they may show aggression not caused by the situation.
Anxious people find it more difficult to build healthy relationships with the people around them, especially romantic relationships. Constant distrust, inability to realize their desires and objectively assess the situation, and jealousy can potentially lead to such people committing a crime. Anxiety serves a protective function in small amounts, protecting from reckless actions and dangerous connections. However, anxiety in excessive doses interferes with the initiation of relationships and destroys existing ones. The attachment mechanism in anxious people works in a perpetual search for confirmation that the connection with the loved one is safe and that nothing threatens the relationship. Love and involvement are vital for people with anxiety disorders. Love is associated with deep emotional experiences and jealousy (Davoren et al., 2017). Realizing the need for belonging, people with these disorders can join a social group to be protected from danger – perceived or actual. Thus, the combination of anxiety traits and deformation of the moral sphere often pushes a person to commit crimes to satisfy his or her needs.
Unlike fear as a reaction to a specific threat, anxiety is an objectless fear. It is often due to the fact that the person is not aware of the source of danger. Such feeling can lead to disorganization of behavior, change of its direction. Fear of reality thus acts as a powerful incentive for criminal action. Therefore, I believe that anxious people do tend to commit crimes. In addition, I am convinced that anxiety can actively stimulate criminal behavior and when a person begins to feel the need to protect themselves from people or phenomena subjectively perceived as threatening. Thus, excessive excitement, limited consciousness, and lack of self-control often generate various law violations.
Davoren, M., Kallis, C., González, R. A., Freestone, M., & Coid, J. W. (2017) Anxiety disorders and intimate partner violence: Can the association be explained by coexisting conditions or borderline personality traits? The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 28(5), 639-658, Web.
Gu, J., Miller, C. B., Henry, A. L., Espie, C. A., Davis, M. L., Stott, R., Emsley, R., Smits, J., Craske, M., Saunders, K., Goodwin, G., & Carl, J. R. (2020). Efficacy of digital cognitive behavioural therapy for symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder: A study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials, 21(1), 1-11. Web.
Schug, R. A., & Fradella, H. F. (2014). Mental illness and crime. SAGE Publications.