Teens and Kleptomania

It might be the smallest item your teen brings home – something they had the means to buy, so you don’t give much thought to this purchase. Nor do you give much thought to the next few items they bring home. As they continually bring home newer items, clothes or jewelry, you begin to wonder just where all these things came from.

Teens and Kleptomania

Teens may steal items from stores, not out of necessity, but rather out of a compulsion to steal. Oftentimes, the teen has the ability to buy this stolen item, but for the exhilaration of the theft, they will steal it instead. This addiction is known as kleptomania. This is by no means limited to only “troubled” teens. Often, the teenager who does all their homework and is the teacher’s pet can be the one indulging in this behavior.

Reasons for Shoplifting

It is often difficult to determine the precise reason a teen steals, but there are several factors that generally play into their kleptomania. Some teens steal as a form of rebellion, for example. A teen might feel so overwhelmed by being the “good student/child” that they feel they need to get in trouble to fit in with everyone else.

Along those same lines, many will shoplift in response to peer pressure. Teens will be dared or coaxed into swiping items of no significance, once again, to feel that sense of belonging. Due to the developing teen brain, logic faculties aren’t fully in place. The teen brain is also more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior, making teens more likely to participate in unwise activities. Instead of carefully thinking out their actions, teens often respond impulsively.

Whatever the reason may be, many teens get a taste for it after the first time – and they’ll continue with the behavior. Some believe that not being caught the first time equals never being caught.  Others, the ones wanting to rebel, may be angry they didn’t get caught so they try again.

What Is Kleptomania?

Kleptomania is a real disorder that is generally prevalent in more females than males and often begins during the teenage years. While not fully conclusive, a report from Discovery Fit & Health states that those suffering from this illness may have relatives with substance abuse problems or other mental health issues.

Most teens do not go into the store planning to steal anything. This is what differentiates kleptomania from theft – theft is planned and deliberate and kleptomania is not. Once inside the store, though, the teen can grow tense either from the prospect of stealing or the thought of being caught. The only way to relieve this tension is by stealing. The act itself brings about a great amount of grief, guilt and sadness. Many feel they are trapped within this cycle, believing they’ll never do it again, only to find themselves continually doing it.

It is believed that kleptomania may be an offshoot from other psychological battles such as:

Symptoms of Kleptomania

While kleptomania is difficult to pinpoint, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has listed five symptoms to look for that might signal a problem with this addiction:

  • Stealing items which are not needed by the teen
  • Feelings of anxiety or tension while shopping
  • A feeling of relief once they have stolen
  • The theft isn’t committed out of feelings of anger or delusion

Kleptomania isn’t easily diagnosed due to the fact that many of those suffering from it do not seek out help, for fear of punishment or embarrassment.

Negative Impact of Kleptomania

Teens and KleptomaniaThe downside to this illness is obvious. A teen who is caught stealing may be arrested, be faced with criminal charges, receive a criminal record, or they could be banned from that particular store.

Naturally, this could one day affect their job search or possibly even college admissions. The teen also faces inner turmoil as emotions of guilt, regret, helplessness or loneliness battle against their mind.

How to Treat Kleptomania

The best treatment plans for a teen with kleptomania involves therapy and/or counseling. Behavior modification therapy can possibly help your teenager to pinpoint the exact reasons behind their kleptomania. If identified, work can begin on correcting the issue.

Family counseling is also helpful. The root of the issue may stem from a problem going on at home. It is important to talk with your teen. If you feel they may be struggling with kleptomania, gently approach the subject. Do not be harsh as your teen might close up since they are already struggling with guilt and fear of being caught.

Let them know that they are not alone in this and that the problem can be fixed. Centers like Newport Academy specialize in helping teenagers and their family address addictions and disorders such as kleptomania. Here at Newport Academy, our highly trained, caring staff can provide you with the knowledge and tools your family needs to beat kleptomania. Give us a call today to discover how we can help your teen.