Fraud and Mental Illness

Fraud, Deception and Mental Illness

Fraud, Deception and Mental Illness

Cheating is sometimes suspected to be a crime underpinned by psychiatric and psychological problems. However, the link between cheating and mental illness has not been well studied. It is difficult to determine the percentage of fraud offenders who suffer from some form of psychopathology. Because only a minority of these offenders undergo a psychiatric or psychological evaluation. The ways in which mental illness has been suggested to be involved in fraud are summarized below.


What is fraud?

Fraud is a broad term that includes many crimes characterized by deception, such as theft, conspiracy, embezzlement, embezzlement, collusion, and misrepresentation. It is an act that brings personal gain and loss to others. The cheating theory literature conceptualizes a “cheating triangle” consisting of motivation, opportunity, and rationalization. The motive may be debt, gambling problems, or a need for material gain due to the desire for more money. It may be nothing. Opportunity refers to access to an object. It can be opportunistic or deliberate. Rationalization refers to how fraudsters justify their actions through a “neutralization process” that creates psychological distance between perpetrators and victims. Abusers may say things like, “I deserve this more than they do.”


Fraud and mental illness

Few scammers seek psychiatric or psychological evaluation, making it difficult to assess the strength of the link between fraud and mental illness. However, there are some documented cases that link cheating and mental illness. Psychiatric motives for cheating have been generalized as he falls into two categories: financial distress and ego-enhancement.


Personality disorders have long been associated with fraud and theft, particularly antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders. Fraud charges can also be associated with pathological lying, which can be a symptom of an underlying disorder, which can also be a disorder itself. Pathological liars often lie when there is no obvious benefit to lying. Cheating can also be associated with “impulse control disorders” such as gambling addiction and kleptomania.


Simulation and diagnostic bypass

There have been documented cases of “impersonation” by fraudsters. That is, faking symptoms of mental illness to avoid being brought to justice.

Conversely, mental health professionals know that high functioning individuals who exhibit all the symptoms of a personality disorder are often successful in evading diagnosis and treatment. This makes it very difficult to access the psychiatric treatment that such offenders can benefit from.

Mental illness as a defence

Insanity can be used as a defense against most crimes, but the mental disorders most commonly associated with fraud are generally not sufficient to deny criminal liability. Must satisfy the defendant that:

  • I didn’t know the nature and quality of his/her behavior
  • did not know that his/her own actions were wrong or could be perceived as wrong by a reasonable person

The law recognizes that an accused should not be held criminally responsible if he failed to develop criminal intent at the time of the crime. Defendants appearing in court are not presumed to have a mental disorder, but a mental disorder may be raised by a prosecutor or defense attorney during a trial.

Cheaters who have been diagnosed with personality disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder have tried unsuccessfully to plead guilty to mental illness. Personality disorders are characterized as persistent maladaptive patterns of thought, behavior, and being, and are usually not severe enough to pass legal examination for mental disorders. As a result, such offenders are treated by the criminal justice system and usually sentenced not designed to address mental health issues.



The relationship between cheating and mental illness has not been well studied. Academics point to the importance of doing more research on this link. Because more knowledge will help courts better understand the underlying causes of these types of crimes and construct sentences that address the underlying psychiatric problems that fuel the crimes.


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