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This time around, our special feature in the tell your story to save a life campaign, Gertrude (not her real name) will be giving us an overview of her kleptomania story. What is kleptomania? This is an impulsive disorder in which a person is in the habit of stealing things that they do not need or may never use. It’s capable of disabling your mental health and bringing down your self-esteem and self-worth.
What is kleptomania?
Kleptomania is a kind of impulsive disorder in which a person cannot resist the urge to steal. People with this disorder steal items that they don’t necessarily need. Sometimes, these items may even be of little value to them. Kleptomania is not the same as shoplifting. People that shoplift may do so because they need the item but cannot afford it. Or they may shoplift due to peer pressure. However, people with kleptomania steal not because they can’t afford it but because they can’t resist the urge. Psychologists say it is a rare mental health disorder and it usually exists with other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and other disorders including substance abuse.
How do I know I have kleptomania?
- You feel an intense irresistible urge to steal things that you don’t need
- Feeling pleasure, satisfaction or arousal while stealing
- You feel intense guilt and self-loathing after stealing
- You steal for pleasure and not because you need those things
- The urge to steal returns again and again despite the fact that you feel bad about yourself afterwards.
Effects of kleptomania on your quality of life
Kleptomania is a mental health disorder that when not treated may affect your quality of life negatively. Because it is usually accompanied by an intense feeling of guilt, shame, and self-loath afterward and this may affect your self-esteem and self-worth. If you don’t feel good about yourself, your whole life takes a course that may leave you unsatisfied and generally unhappy.
This disorder may cause you to steal from loved ones, family, and friends. You may also steal from places of work. This may endanger or ruin your relationships and give you a bad reputation. It also makes it hard for others to trust you.
Everybody values peace of mind and the secret life that comes with kleptomania will steal your peace. You live with the fear of being caught, arrested, or discovered by your loved ones.
Possible associations of Kleptomania
Because kleptomania is a mental disorder, it is likely to occur with or cause other mental complications or conditions such as;
- Eating disorders
- Social isolation and consequential loneliness due to guilt and shame
- Suicide attempts and suicide
- Bipolar, personality, and/or compulsive disorders
- Substance abuse
Understanding someone that you suspect has kleptomania
You may feel angry and even betrayed if that someone is close to you and maybe they have stolen from you a couple of times. But you must understand that this is something that they can’t control. People with this disorder do not steal for revenge, malice, rebellion, or personal gain. Just like most mental health disorders, the problem is in the transmission, firing, or misfiring of certain chemicals in the brain.
In this case, it is believed that when the individual steals, there is the release of dopamine which is a hormone that causes the feeling of pleasure. So the act comes with a transit feeling of pleasure and naturally, the person seeks this form of reward time after time. Hence the recurrence of the habit. It is also said that the habit is caused by a disturbance in the opioid system which makes it hard to resist urges.
So you must understand that people with kleptomania are not necessarily bad or evil people. They can’t help it. In fact, they hate what they do so much that they might end up hating their very existence. Especially if it affects their loved ones. Avoid being judgemental or so hard on them. Rather help them get professional assistance. Having them arrested or executing harsh punishment will not help them. Them hating themselves for what they do is punishment enough, and yet, the urge or impulse to steal is still irresistible. Even if they get arrested, they are likely to steal something useless again once they are released.
What to do if you think you have kleptomania
Mostly, people with this disorder live a secret life and never seek help because of shame and fear of humiliation. If this disorder is left untreated, it may cause you problems with your quality of life, relationships and may cause legal issues. Some good people have found themselves in jail because of something that they can’t control.
Talk to someone
The first step of solving a problem is recognising and accepting that there is a problem. Speak to someone that you know is likely to understand your situation and give you the support that you need.
Get professional help
Psychotherapy is known to be the main treatment for kleptomania. There are drugs that are given to restore the normal activity of the responsible chemicals and mechanisms in the brain that are responsible for this disorder.
Pray about it
I’ll always emphasize how important prayer is in our daily lives even as we are faced with rare or unusual conditions or situations. God cares about your quality of life and what you are going through. He cares about your mental health. You are not cursed or doomed. If you think and feel that your issue is spiritual, do not neglect daily and persistent prayer. Some things take time to clear off but don’t lose hope even when you find yourself doing it again and again. Because God forgives you again and again. Keep praying.