Many people, teenagers mostly, shoplift for fun. They love the thrill getting away with a crime gives them, and they also love to brag about the item they stole. The more expensive the stolen item is, the bigger their bragging rights become. However, there are some people who don’t steal because it’s fun, but they steal things because they can’t help it. This condition is called kleptomania, and it is considered a mental disorder.
In a nutshell, kleptomania is a condition wherein a person can’t help the urge to steal things. They don’t do it because it’s fun, and they don’t do it because they need it or they need the money it can bring if they sell it. They steal because they simply can’t help themselves.
Unlike other mental disorders, kleptomania is normally under-diagnosed. This means that it is usually not diagnosed as a disease per se but is more commonly associated with other more easily recognizable mental disorders such as drug and alcohol addiction as well as eating disorder.
Characteristics of Kleptomania
It’s not easy to diagnose kleptomania since the person is, more often than not, suffering from other mental disorders such as eating disorders, mood disorders, or impulse control disorders. Oftentimes, these most common diseases are diagnosed as the major disease, with kleptomania simply as a related disease. However, there are important characteristics that define kleptomania.
For one, he can’t resist the urge of stealing, and he steals not for his private use, for fun, or for the monetary value it gives him should he sell it. Two, the thought of stealing is recurrent, maybe even constant as it always intrudes in his mind. There is an increasing buildup of stress and anxiety before he steals things. Three, there is a release of stress after stealing something. He feels euphoric and light once he’s given in to the temptation of stealing. Four, his stealing is not, in any way, related to antagonism or revenge, nor is it related to acting out on a fantasy or a reaction to a delusion. Five, his stealing is not justifiable by a behavior disorder or other mental disorders.
Kleptomaniacs often know that what they’re doing is a crime, and they feel guilty and remorseful for their actions. Because of these feelings, they often resort to alcohol and drug abuse as well as social isolation. They also suffer from mood disorders such as feelings of extreme anxiety and stress, feelings of extreme guilt, suicidal thoughts, depression, memory and concentration problems, and even social segregation. Because of these, the clinical diagnosis of kleptomania is made uncertain by the other mental disorders he’s suffering from.
Kleptomania is treated with a variety of therapeutic approaches. For one, the patient will receive psychoanalytic and behavioral treatment approaches. The causes for kleptomania are studied and various defense mechanism strategies are developed to avoid or control the urge. An example of this is by introducing aversion therapy. Two, medical or drug treatment is also given. These include antidepressants as well as lithium and valproic acid therapy.
Kleptomania is a disease, but it can be controlled. The urges should be controlled, lest it starts affecting your life and gets you into legal troubles.
Jennifer Daley writes for Savitz Law in MA, a criminal defense attorney. Stealing, whether it’s for fun or because of a mental disease, is still a crime, and as such, it is punishable by law.