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Coping with kleptomania

education Updated: Aug 24, 2011 10:40 IST
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With growing information in today’s day and age, we frequently come about terms such as kleptomania. Kleptomania is primarily an impulse control disorder in which an individual is unable to stop himself or herself from stealing objects. The kleptomaniac’s objective is not monetary gain or other such factors as in the case of common theft. This is a difficult and debilitating condition for the individual. Here are some tips on how to cope with this illness

1 Kleptomania is an illness: One of the first and foremost things to understand is that kleptomania is not a habit. It is not something that one can control at will. It is an illness, a psychiatric condition that requires treatment and help like any other.

2 Educate yourself about it: Before reaching conclusions and basing your understanding on a few facts or misconceptions, clarify your understanding of kleptomania. Use reliable resources to educate yourself about the illness, its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

3 Do not hide it: Hiding that you have this disorder is no solution. Acceptance is the first step in moving in the direction of looking for solutions to the problem.

4 Take expert help: Do not think that this is something that would go away on its own, or that you can resolve it yourself or with the help of family or friends. Kleptomaniacs need medical attention. A consultation with a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist is an absolute must and should not be ignored at any cost.

5 Talk it out: Share what you are experiencing with your family, your parents in particular. Taking their help is a good way to move forward. Parents can provide you with the motivation and support to be able to overcome your difficulties.

6 Keep a self-evaluation chart: Get engaged in the treatment process. This would involve not just trying to keep avoiding the act of stealing but also monitoring yourself actively on your own. Maintain a self-evaluation chart to determine in which situations you may be tempted to steal something, how strong that urge is, what thoughts accompany that urge and then determine what is it that you did or could do to shun the behaviour. Motivate yourself by using positive self-statements.

7 Return the goods: If at some point in time you are unable to control your impulse to steal, then go back and return the item you picked. This knowledge that you would return whatever you may have taken to the person you took it from, would also act as a deterrent for you to engage in the act of stealing.

8 Do not cover up: Do not try and cook up a story to cover up what happened. It is very important to own up. It is an integral aspect is working towards overcoming this problem.

9 Elders must not blame the child: Elders’ support is absolutely imperative. Blame directed towards the child is of no use and would only worsen the problem. Instead, try and find better ways to support the child, cope with the illness and aid in its treatment.

10 Utilise your peer support system: Friends can be a source of immense strength and courage in coping with the illness and utilising their help is of great importance.

Seek their support and work towards tackling the problem.

The author is a psychiatrist, and chief, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Healthcare