My family has recently become aware that my brother's wife has been stealing - in shops, from the family, everywhere. She was treated at hospital for kleptomania. She also abuses pills and has sold stolen goods at a pawn shop. But research says that kleptomaniacs do it for the thrill, not to get money. What shall we do?
Kleptomania is repeated occurence where a person cannot resist the impluse to steal things, and when the reason for this is not economic or need of something for own usage. A person can get caught in kleptomania if he or she steals something, and finds that this reduces anxiety. There is then a risk that the same method is repeated, the next time the person has unbearable anxiety.
A cleptomaniac gets stimulation, satisfaction and release
during the actual act of stealing, in the same way as a
shopping addict gets a "kick" out of shopping. This kick is
caused by stimulation of the pleasure centers in the brain
from signal substances in the brain. If the kleptomaniac is
down or stressed, then she may feel a compulsion to steal
in order to counteract the anxiety. That this is so is
shown by the fact that female kleptomaniacs steal more in
the days immediately before menstruation. Kleptomania thus
has many similarities to alcohol and drug abuse.
In psychotherapeutic treatment of kleptomania, the patient
lies on a couch and is helped to get into contact with the
inner tension that urges her to kleptomania. The therapist
helps the patient to get into contact with her inner
psychic pain, she is helped to find better ways of handling
her anxiety, and she learns to handle her problems in more
The kleptomaniac does not aim at gaining money by stealing.
If she sells the stolen goods, this is probably not
kleptomania at the time of selling, but may still be
kleptomania at the time of stealing.
Your brother's wife needs professional help with her anxiety.
People close to her should talk honestly and openly with
her, and set limits for her, before the police do this.
I treat cleptomania with gestalt therapy. The patient gets in contact with her anxiety ande learn other ways of dealing with her emotion than stealing.