Why Do People Lead Secret Lives?

The Grand Junction Sentinel reported that investigators have also visited a downtown office kept by Birgfeld, where they found a massage table and what appeared to be acupuncture equipment. Police would not confirm or deny the report

Joel Dvoskin, a forensic psychologist and the president of the American Psychology-Law Society, agreed with Welner's assesment.

"Logically, it's more likely that there's a financial cause," he said. "Very often, it's like Bill Clinton said: it's the economy stupid. Money is often why people do things."

A Reprieve From a 'Boring' Life?

Some people who have engaged in similar illicit behavior have been driven by psychological disorders and a desire to add excitement to their lives, experts said.

"More often than not, part of it is the thrill, adding excitement to an otherwise 'boring' life," said McCrary. "They want to have a dark secret, to walk on the wild side a little bit."

Working in the sex trade in particular can offer an allure of danger. "They acquire an aura of being sexy, which you don't necessarily retain after marriage and motherhood," said Ramsland.

Welner, though, disputed that characterization, saying that the sex workers he has treated are not attracted to the danger of the work.

What little is known about Birgfeld also appears consistent with some personality disorders, said Dr. Elliot Atkins, a forensic psychologist. Atkins suggested that working several different jobs while raising three children could be consistent with a need for approval and affirmation or with the manic activity associated with bipolar disorder.

People with bipolar disorder are often easily bored and are stimulated by stress of balancing different parts of their lives. They often engage in several projects at once and often engage in sexual indiscretions, he said.

"In this case, one of the things we wee is that she appears to be somebody who's very busy, engaged in multiple activities and multiple relationships," he said. "What we see is an individual who has an extremely high level of energy, or need for excitement."

All of Birgfeld's different activities are consistent with the "grandiose thinking of someone in a manic state," Atkins said.

Stress and Guilt

The stresses of leading a hidden life often leads people to unravel.

"Sometimes they react with volenece, sometime they will just slip away and start over somewhere," said Ramsland.

Usually able to separate the different facets of their lives, but may begin to take a toll through anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses, she said.

"If you have any conscience at all, you do begin to feel the guilt," she said.

Welner said that people who work in the sex industry often struggle to fit in to their communities. "Often they long for a day when they will have a legitimate life," he said.

It is still too early to tell which of the possible explanations best describes what happened to Birgfeld. Dvoskin also pointed out that there are differences between running an escort service and other notable types of hidden illicit activity, like having an affair with a student, that seem to be more a product of lack of impulse control.

"To run a business, that's not yielding to immediate temptation," he said. "That's a criminal enterprise."

But, until more is known, Birgfeld's friends and family will probably continue to be surprised by how little they actually know about the woman they thought they knew.

Martin Williams, a forensic psychologist, wondered, "You have to ask, is the escort service the exception or is the family life the exception?"

With Reporting By David Schoetz

ABC News Consultant Dr. Michael Welner is chairman of The Forensic Panel, a national forensic science practice. He is developing an evidence-based test called the Depravity Scale, http://depravityscale.org, which invites Americans to participate in surveys that are used to form a legal standard of what represents worst crimes.

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