What is kleptomania


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.

This is my kleptomania story. I was seating in a dimly lit prison cell with four other women. The stench of the cell was unbearable but having spent one full day and night, it was slowly merging with my senses. My whole body felt like I had been run over by a goods train and my arms felt like two blocks of heavy burning timber. I couldn’t even lift my hands to my mouth as the pain was unbearable. I had been made to do two hundred press-ups the previous night by the police officers as a form of punishment for having stolen from my antie. She had had enough of me stealing from her and she felt if I spent a night in the cells, I could learn my lesson.

Tears couldn’t stop falling down my face. What she did not know was I hated doing what I often did. In fact, I hated myself for causing her so much pain. I cringed thinking of my secret stash of antiques and artifacts that I had taken from several other people that I kept tucked away under my bed. Sometimes, I could even give her and my niece some things that I stole from someplace and lied that I had bought them.

I did not understand why I stole those things when I didn’t need them. Every time I saw them, I felt so bad about myself and disliked myself even more. I felt like a bad person and every time I told myself I would never do it again. But I would find myself doing it. What was so hard for me was the thought of being caught if I tried to return the things that I had stolen from the rightful owners.

When my auntie took me home later that day, I did nothing but cry. I was sore and stiff such that I couldn’t feed or bathe myself for the next six days. My antie bathed and fed me while I spent most of my time crying and feeling remorseful. Despite all the trauma and pain, I stole from her again a month later.

This time, she took me to the hospital. She had read somewhere about kleptomania and told the clinician that she suspected I had the disorder. I was referred to a higher institution, examined, and diagnosed. I was given some drugs and appointments for psychotherapy. Even during the time of therapy, I found myself stealing sometimes. But over time, I found that I could control the urge to steal, till I completely grew out of it.

If you feel you have kleptomania, talk to someone. It is curable and you too can enjoy your life and family.
Gertrude (not real name)

What is kleptomania?

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;

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • 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

What is kleptomania

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.

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