Kleptomania: The Other Side of Shoplifting | Kleptomania: Is It Real?

Why do rich people steal items that they can afford? Let’s explore Kleptomania as a reason behind some shoplifting cases. 

Hollywood was shocked when movie star Winona Ryder was caught red-handed stealing designer clothes at a luxury store in Beverly Hills, California; all of which she could afford to buy. So why did an actress making more than six million dollars per film do it?

While Ryder’s case may be the most popular case of shoplifting in the United States, this crime costs retailers more than 13 billion dollars a year or approximately 35 million per day. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the last five years but only half of those people are turned over to the police.

Interestingly, the suspects of shoplifting are not what you expect. Most of us think shoplifting is done by people who can’t afford to shop and are only doing it to provide for their families. That is rarely the case. Anyone could be shoplifter, and Ryder’s case isn’t an isolated one. Other Hollywood stars such as Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox were also caught shoplifting. On April 2019, a man from Florida was arrested for shoplifting at a supermarket, even though he had just bought a multi-million dollar private island.

So why do rich people risk ruining their reputations to steal items that they can afford? Most of the time, the answer is they can’t help it.

What is Kleptomania?

Kleptomania is a rare but diagnosable serious mental health condition that manifests in repeated acts of stealing items that one does not really need. For Kleptomaniacs, they are not stealing for personal gain. People suffering from this condition experience tension before committing the crime, and a release of anxiety after doing it. This results in feelings of relief and pleasure. After the act, some throw the items right away because they don’t really need or want it. It’s the act of stealing that satisfies their impulse and not the object.

Despite being a medically recognized psychological disorder, Kleptomania cannot be used by defense attorneys as a legal defense to stealing; even as an insanity defense. 

What causes Kleptomania?

Kleptomania is caused by an imbalance in the brain’s opioid system that is primarily responsible for urges. People who have other mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, and depression are more likely to develop Kleptomania. According to Health Line, the link is strongest with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). However, the condition can be also hereditary. Psychological trauma can also be a factor in the development of the condition.

Is there a treatment for Kleptomania?

Psychotherapy is the main treatment for impulse control disorders like Kleptomania. Most of those who suffer from Kleptomania don’t have an idea of why they constantly shoplift. The goal of this therapy is to help them understand why and learn how to respond to the urges. Medication for addiction treatment may be prescribed for extreme cases of kleptomania. This is done in order to balance the brain chemistry that causes the urge to shoplift.

As humans, we all know that fighting an urge can be extremely difficult. And while we can all agree that stealing things is a crime, for people suffering from Kleptomania, they really don’t have a choice. The question now is: what can be done for them? And should society be kinder and more understanding of them?

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