Kleptomania: A Compulsive Stealing Disorder

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By Partha Prawal

A video of a lady caught by the security personnel in a shopping mall in Guwahati allegedly for shoplifting went viral in social media on Thursday. It was also shared by various news channels and news portals. The video attracted a wide range of reactions and comments in social media from various quarters.

Even though it is not certain, but after watching the video and the lady’s reactions many people assumed that the lady is suffering from kleptomania- a rare mental disorder.

Kleptomaniacs are people who have an irresistible urge to steal and generally they steal things which they do not need, that they could afford to buy, or that have little to no monetary value.

Medical science says that kleptomania is a defence against unconscious impulses, desires, conflicts and needs. It is a mental disorder and it needs attention.

One may easily say that kleptomania is nothing but a normal act of shoplifting and when well-to-persons are caught stealing, they label it under the banner of some disease. However, one must know here that kleptomania is not an issue of richness or poorness and it has a vast difference from normal shoplifting.

Normal shoplifting has a motive and the things stolen are stolen for the monetary worth of the item. But kleptomania is impulsive and it is unplanned and has no motive behind. Kleptomaniac doesn’t steal for personal gain. They steal for they find it impossible to control their urge. Stealing is done to alleviate their anxiety.

Out of shame or the fear of being laughed at force most of the victims to keep this disorder under the blanket.

The disease is still not fully understood and till date, no proper cure for it has been found. However, there are still a few treatments that can help a kleptomaniac and these include psychotherapy, medication (Pharmacotherapy) and support groups.

If someone is known to be suffering from kleptomania, then he/she requires a lot of attention from family and friends. The person needs to be given pep talks and be made comfortable. Efforts must be made to calm the person and relax the mind. And no point should the person be mocked at or shamed publicly. The mocking and shaming may have an adverse impact on the victim.

It may be mentioned here that there are a number of persons who have won their wars against kleptomania.

Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox and Winona Ryder are some of the popular Hollywood celebrities who have suffered from kleptomania at some stages of their lives and with efforts, they have cured it completely.

Two-time Australian Open champion and 1992 Barcelona Olympics gold medallist Jennifer Capriati was also diagnosed with this rare disease. She was once caught stealing a ring of $ 15.

Awareness about kleptomania is less among the general public. It is suggested that awareness camps on the disease are organised time and again, especially for the shopkeepers and the staff, so that if they ever catch someone shoplifting then they can identify if he/she is a normal shoplifter or a kleptomaniac. And if the person caught is kleptomaniac, then they should know the sensible ways of dealing with the person and handling the situation maturely.

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