Risk of Committing Violence Among Individuals Suffering Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Risk of Committing Violence Among Individuals Suffering From Bipolar Disorder

Several studies argue that most psychiatric symptoms are closely correlated with criminality, since such symptoms impair judgment and violate societal norms. In this regard, several studies have been conducted regarding the risk of violence among individuals suffering from mental illnesses but few have highlighted the possibility of bipolar individuals engaging in criminal behavior. The common disorders known to be highly related to criminality include antisocial personality disorder, kleptomania, voyeurism and schizophrenia. Therefore, this study is meant to examine the possibility of bipolar individuals engaging in criminal behavior.

Research Topic

This paper aims at analyzing the likelihood of committing violence among individuals suffering from bipolar disorder as well as the factors that are likely to influence the degree to which these individuals are likely to commit violent acts.

Thesis Statement

Past studies have hinted that individuals suffering from bipolar disorder have a greater possibility of engaging in criminal activities than the general population and that this likelihood emanates from mood swings related to misconceptions of persecution (Link, Monahan, Ann, & Cullen, 1999). On the contrary, contradicting studies highlight that the likelihood of persons with bipolar disorder committing violent acts is not related to their medical conditions. In this regard, this thesis claims that genetics as well as environmental changes are some of the factors likely to encourage violent activities among people having bipolar disorder. Despite the fact that, bipolar individuals portray a greater likelihood of committing crime than non-bipolar individuals, the same factors propagating crime is the same even for the bipolar-free population.


The general public believes that individuals having bipolar disorder are prone to committing violence than non-bipolar individuals a factor that several researches have disproved. In this regard, public surveys report that locals have a notion that crime and mental illnesses are closely interlinked. Though it is acknowledged that persons having psychiatric disorders commit violence, results have been varying regarding the extent to which mental disabilities and drug dependency contribute to such criminal acts. Bipolar disorder is a psychological illness in which individual experience constant mood swings with alternating states of depression (Taylor, 2008). There are two phases of bipolar disorder; mania whereby individuals are always alert and energetic; and a higher level where individuals become impulsive and restless, often making bad unrealistic decisions and are likely to display psychotic behavior such as violence.

Several medical studies have been conducted regarding bipolar disorder due to the increasing claims that bipolar individuals are not likely to engage in criminal activities. On the contrary, other researches as well as legal institutions argue that bipolar individuals are able to commit violence are not legally insane (Belfrage, 1998). These studies ascertain that there is expanding evidence that individuals suffering from bipolar disorder are aware of their actions and the penalties the actions attract. To clarify these contradictory findings, this study looks at past researches, theories as well as the role of environmental stimuli on the likelihood of bipolar individuals committing violent activities.

Hypotheses and Theoretical Conceptions

As highlighted in the preceding paragraphs, study findings have been contradictory regarding the extents to which individuals suffering from bipolar disorder are likely to engage in criminal behavior. However, it is widely acclaimed that bipolar individuals have an increased likelihood of committing violence compared to the general populations. On the other hand, several studies have concluded that bipolar symptoms such as restlessness and constant mood swings have impacts on the possibility of these individuals engaging in violence.

To prove these hypotheses, a joint study conducted by the Oxford University and Karolinska Institute of Sweden from 1998 through 2000 illustrated that individuals with bipolar disorder are likely to commit crime and these persons account for a greater percentage than the general population. Nevertheless, the study had mixed results; first, bipolar individuals engaged in more violence than non-bipolar people with the degree of violence increasing due to drug dependency. On the contrary, unaffected siblings of bipolar patients have elevated likelihood of engaging in crime, a factor that shows that genetics can increase violence among unaffected individuals in families with bipolar disorder (Fazel, Lichtenstein, Grann, Goodwin, & Langstrom, 2010). As a concern, there was no significant variations in the extent of violent acts by clinical subgroups; manic vs. depressive and psychotic vs. nonpsychotic. This study had its own share of limitations though the major constraint was the failure to discuss the impact of clinical phases of bipolar disorder on increasing the risks of violence and the role of research group should have conducted interview-based studies to assist in expounding such issues. Despite the limitation, the study's strength emanates from the large sample of violence bipolar individuals studied which makes the findings more valid and reliable. To cap it all, the study highlights the risk of crime among bipolar individuals and though it is still far from being conclusive, it is a base for conducting further research. Thus, further studies should be initiated, better measures developed, and larger samples used to validate the link between bipolar disorder and crime. Notwithstanding the limitations, the research illustrates that performing various risk assessments among bipolar patients having drug tolerance is likely to give in-depth details on the link between bipolar disorder and violent crime.

In addition, to validate the theory that bipolar disorder is linked to violence; a study was conducted to ascertain the extent of crime in a sample of 261 male patients having affective disorders. In this regard, the patients were subdivided into three RDC groups and a comparison drawn out with the same number of control subjects picked from the non-affective disordered individuals (Modestin, Hugb, & Ammann, 1997). Additionally, the patients' criminal records as well as convictions were used to gauge the degree to which their criminal activities varied. The study concluded that of the sample, approximately 42% of patients and 31% of non-patients had past criminal records. As a concern, there were higher percentages of violent activities committed by individuals suffering from bipolar disorder whereas unaffected patients recorded lower criminal behavior. The major strength of this study is that it compared the same number of bipolar individuals with their non-affected counterparts which makes the results reliable and valid; besides, the comparison shows the fluctuations in criminality of the individuals ranging from, bipolar to unipolar persons. However, the main limitation is that the research subjects were few thus; it does not represent the general idea that bipolar individuals are prone to engaging in violent activities. However, this research adds evidence to the notions that bipolar individuals are generally violent and can be used to conduct further research on the same topic in future.

On the same line, it was realized that mood disorders coupled with drug and alcohol dependency resulted in increased inmate violence as well as a study was a tendency to repeat their offenses over again (Vaeroy, 2011). Therefore, a study was conducted in this regard using various psychometric methods. To gauge the extent of the participants' depressions, Clinical Anxiety, Hospital Anxiety and Depression as well as Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating scales were incorporated in the study. The findings illustrated the possibility of inmates undergoing preventive convictions developing higher degrees of depression and mood disorders which resulted into feeling of violence. Besides, the prisoners undergoing preventive corrections were confirmed to be the most violent which is closely linked to affective conditions are associated with high likelihood of prison violence and frequent as well as repeated crime. However, despite the correlation between mood disorders and prisoners' violence, the prison environment plays a critical role elevating depressive symptoms among the inmates just like other factors such as drug dependency. Despite proving the link between violence and bipolar affective disorder, the study had some limitations; the main one being the low participants' number which emanates from the small percentage of Norwegian inmates under preventive imprisonments. Therefore, it is recommended the study can be used a base for further research on the topic among inmates. The strength is that similar studies on inmates' mood swings in relation to violence have not conducted thus making the findings from this study somehow reliable. In addition, the study also highlight the existing relationship between substance abuse and violence and recommends the initiation of preventive mechanisms concerning drug dependency which when fully incorporated in the prison system is likely to reduce the likelihood of committing violence thus reducing proneness of inmates to repeat their violence activities both in and out of imprisonment.

In the same scope, convicts suffering from mental illnesses ranging from schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and psychotic symptoms which high levels of drug dependency are likely to be arrested over again for violent criminal activities several years after their release as opposed to prisoners without such disorders. In this regard, a study was conducted by Teplin and associates to prove this hypothesis 6 years after the acquittal of prisoners having psychological disorders and non-affected persons (Teplin, Abram, & McClelland, 1994). By using the…

Sources Used in Documents:


Belfrage, H. (1998). A ten-year follow-up of criminality in Stockholm mental patients. British Journal of Criminology, 38, 145-155.

Fazel, S., Lichtenstein, P., Grann, M., Goodwin, G.M., & Langstrom, N. (2010). Bipolar Disorder and Violent CrimeNew Evidence From Population-Based Longitudinal Studies and Systematic Review. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(9), 931-938.

Feldmann, T.B. (2001). Bipolar Disorder and Violence. Psychiatric Quarterly, 72(2), 119-129.

Link, B.G., Monahan, J., Ann, S., & Cullen, F.T. (1999). Real in Their Consequences: A Sociological Approach to Understanding the Association between Psychotic Symptoms and Violence. American Sociological Review, 64(2), 316-332.

Cite This Thesis:

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