How To Help A Kleptomaniac
Have you imagined walking in the groceries with a family member or a loved one and suddenly you caught them stealing? Have you seen somebody who looked rich but they sneakily steal an item and didn’t pay for it? This is how kleptomaniacs behave. Kleptomania, also known as Klopemania, is defined as an impulse control disorder where the person has the inability to control or refrain himself from stealing items other than personal or financial gains. Most of these behaviors happen during late adolescent and young adulthood years, happening more in women than in men. The condition was highly sensationalized because some famous Hollywood stars were caught or known to be doing such behaviors.
Now, what if they were your significant others or someone you love and care so much? The incident could create various reactions, of course – ranging from shock or disbelief, humiliation, anger, and frustration. Is there a cure for this condition? What would be the best thing to do to help them resolve or control these impulses from happening again? Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC says “It can greatly affect your life and lead to some serious legal consequences.” Because of this, you have to find the right cure to solve your problem.
Here are some useful ways in order to help them recognize and gain control.
- Promoting awareness or assisting the individual to recognize the signs and symptoms. It is helpful to know the signs, symptoms including behaviors that a kleptomaniac manifests. Some of them are anxiety leading to theft, depression, gratifying feelings after a theft, stealing without planning and developing remorse after committing it. Identifying triggers is also significant. There are underlying issues that a kleptomaniac is battling with such as anxiety, depression or feelings of inadequacy that are left unresolved. Helping them identify these predisposing factors would mean the root cause will be eliminated. Equipping oneself with the knowledge and available resources that can be utilized about kleptomania is essential.
- Keep a diary or journal to record events pertaining to kleptomania. Write down the date, place, object stolen, and the trigger factor that can lead to such behavior. This way, the person will be able to review and reflect on the stealing episodes that he/she has done and might help in the plan of not doing it again.
- Approach them in a very calm, non-judgmental and helpful manner. Let them feel that you are there to help them avoid getting into problems or legal troubles. Explain the consequences of their actions. You can emphasize that it may lead to arrest, loss of a job and trust issues. The advice of Michelle Overman LMFT is: “If you or someone you love is exhibiting these symptoms, it is best to seek a diagnosis and treatment.”
- Suggest the variety of treatment choices that can help them. According to psychiatrists, kleptomania can be a psychological condition originating from obsessive-compulsive disorders and it requires professional help. As such, kleptomaniacs may attend therapies specific to help and manage their condition. Examples of these therapies are behavior modification therapy, family therapy, cognitive behavior therapy and psychodynamics. They can also talk to a psychologist who can diagnose and suggest other treatment modalities. Also, support groups can be very beneficial. This is where they can see compassion and encouragement for a successful recovery.
- Encourage the person to choose a hobby to occupy his time. In that way, he can divert his impulses into a more productive activity. They can focus their energy on making crafts, discovering new hobbies they have never tried before, or meeting a new set of people that can inspire them to discover new things. Emphasize to them that gaining focus and being an asset in the community will do them more good. Paul Dalton, LPCC says “Treatment for chronic impulsivity includes medication and therapy to curb impulses.”
Creating a non-judgmental, compassionate and helpful attitude around kleptomaniacs is therefore vital into resolving their condition. It is also very important that we actively make them feel that we are involved in their process of overcoming this. There must be consistent communication regarding their development and keeping track of their progress. Overcoming this battle is a team effort.