When someone has a compulsion to steal things they don’t need, there may be a severe underlying mental illness known as kleptomania. Kleptomania is a serious disease that requires treatment by a professional. The unfortunate truth is that many people who suffer from kleptomania are too ashamed of their behavior to seek any help. If you know someone who exhibits this behavior, here are five ways you can help them get control of their life.
Recognize the Symptoms
One way to help a friend or loved one who is suffering is to recognize the symptoms of kleptomania. Symptoms include:
- Stealing items with little or no value.
- Becoming tense and anxious before stealing something.
- Being relieved when stealing something.
- Guilt and regret after the theft.
Kleptomania isn’t about acquiring items. It is about an anxious pressure to take something that isn’t valuable. It is an impulsive act. The result that the kleptomaniac is seeking is the act of stealing and not the item itself.
Talk to Them About It
It is crucial to reserve judgment here. Kleptomania is a mental illness. It’s not something that your loved one can control well on their own. It does not stem from a lack of morals or ill intent. It is an overwhelming impulse that they cannot control. That is why it is classified as an impulse control disorder. Here are some talking points you can use:
- That you are worried about them.
- That you understand that they cannot control the behavior.
- There is a problem with brain chemistry.
- You don’t want to see them get into trouble.
- There are treatments available for the condition.
- Doctors will help, not call the police.
Knowing that you care and want to help is probably enough. Seek a professional for advice if you still aren’t sure how to approach the subject without worsening the situation.
Know Treatment Options
Treatment for kleptomania usually includes medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps to identify and control triggers to change behavior. When combined with medication to correct the brain chemistry, the urges can often be controlled. There are also support groups available in some places.
Get Them Legal Help
Unfortunately, the kleptomaniac may end up being charged with a property crime before anyone realizes that they have a problem. What are property crimes? They include crimes like theft, and an attorney specializing in property crimes is what you will be looking for to defend your loved one.
Support Their Treatment
It is important to note that there is no cure for kleptomania. With treatment, the impulses become manageable; they do not go away completely. For that reason, it is vital if the urges return that the kleptomaniac has a support system to fall back on. That system includes the doctor, a support group, and you.
Learn about their specific triggers. Be open and available. Make sure you understand the treatment plan laid out by the doctor and know the coping skills that your loved one uses to cope with their impulse. That way, when they are having troubles, they can turn to you for help.
Treat Them Like a Person
Watching a loved one suffer is hard. You may feel like you need to step in and help them with every little thing. Resist that urge. People with severe mental health conditions have better outcomes when they take responsibility for their own lives. Be there to support them, not fix things for them.
Kleptomania is a disease, and it needs to be treated by a professional. If you suspect a loved one is suffering from kleptomania, learn the symptoms and help them get the help they need.