Crimes ranging from murder and terrorism to lesser offences, such as burglary and joyriding, can all create a level of excitement that some people find irresistible, said John Hodge, head of professional practice at Rampton Hospital, Nottinghamshire.
"Some criminal activity may be best understood by a kind of addictive process. The notion concerns the fact that they get more tied up with the excitement, stimulation and the buzz of committing the crime itself," said Mr Hodge.
Traditional explanations for serial crime have focused on the idea of a "psychopathic" personality, but another view is that some people are merely more susceptible to becoming addicted to crime as a means of making them feel better.
A high proportion of crimes is committed by a small number of people, many of whom continue in spite of a high risk of being caught, added Mr Hodge. "Normal criminal motives such as financial gain or revenge do not seem sufficient to explain this," he told the science festival.
The new notion of crime being addictive has so far failed to produce any statistics in the degree to which it affects criminal behaviour, but rehabilitation should take into account the addictive nature of crime - already part of the treatment for sex offenders, added Mr Hodge.
"It is vital that the experience criminals have in prison does not reinforce addiction, because sitting in a cell with nothing to do gives lots of time to consolidate thoughts."Reuse content