Free research paper example on Kleptomania:
Kleptomania is recognized as a very rare mental disorder that is classified among the impulse disorders / obsessive compulsive disorders. This disease may be associated to mood disorders such as depression. It involves a failure to resist the impulse to steal items that are not needed for personal use or monetary value.
There are an estimated 23 million shoplifters in America today (approximately 1 out of 11) and with retailers losing $25 million a day, it is a major problem.
Kleptomania is easily distinguishable from shoplifting (and Addictive Compulsive Theft), as shown in the chart below:
Kleptomania Thefts Addictive Compulsive Thefts
Constant failure to resist the impulse to steal objects that are not needed for personal use or monetary gain. Constant failure to resist obsessive, addictive, or compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Objects that are stolen are used even if not needed.
Increasing amount of tension immediately before committing the theft. Present tension well before committing the theft.
Pleasure or relief after committing the theft. Often not fully aware committing the theft so there is lilt or no guilt afterwards. Pleasure or relief at the time of the theft and just after. More of a conscious act so guilt and shame most likely will be felt after.
The theft is a way to act out anger, trying to make life right again.
People suffering from Kleptomania have the recurrent impulse to steal objects that are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value. They do not steal because they need the object stolen in fact they will sometimes secretly replace the object after stealing it. Kleptomaniacs steal strictly for the thrill of stealing, and do not want to get caught. The act of stealing is not committed to express anger or revenge, and it is not the result of a delusion or a hallucination. The Kleptomaniac steals to feel the “rush” of doing so, and the result there is pleasure, gratification, or even relief for successfully completing such a task. Kleptomaniacs are normally impulsive and careless, and if caught, many will admit they are kleptomaniacs and will feel little remorse or embarrassment. Often, they will use well known excuses such as “I don’t remember taking it”, or “I don’t know why I took it because I don’t even need it”.
To be diagnosed with Kleptomania, a person must have the typical pattern of recurrent tension before the event, causing that particular behavior, which will in turn lead to relief and sometimes pleasure after performing the behavior. Kleptomania is a rare disease, however, it is more common in females than in males. Patients have an irresistible inclination to steal, often throwing away the stolen goods. Although this is considered a disease, it is not a legal excuse for any court.
Kleptomania can be the result of emotional stress or trauma during the childhood or youth, and some sufferers shoplift as a way to make up for the loss in their life. They normally feel that they were deprived unfairly in some form or another. For other Kleptomaniacs, shoplifting is just a payback for all the things they do for others and how little they receive in return. If the theft is related to vengeance or psychosis, Kleptomania would not be diagnosed. The strong desire to steal may decrease with age, but if left untreated the results could ruin their lives.
For some Kleptomaniacs, shoplifting is simply a way to escape form anxiety, frustration, boredom or sometimes just simply depression. A person’s addiction to shoplifting can develop quickly when the excitement from successfully completing the theft turns into a chemical reaction of adrenaline. This is the “high” or “rush” feeling that many shoplifters will get after completion. It seams common for shoplifters to feel that this is the true reward, not the property gain. In addition to feeling so good, these people come to the conclusion that this temporary high will result in the elimination of their anger, depression, and general feelings of unhappiness. Kleptomaniacs will realize after a short period of time that it is easy to get that “high” feeling by repeating the act over and over again, possibly thinking it will be the last time. Then the addiction begins. Most Kleptomaniacs feel guilty and ashamed about what they have done, and are scared of getting caught, though the pull is too strong for many to resist.
Some people will argue that shoplifting is not a true psychological problem, arguing that a person could stop the illegal behavior at any point because there is a morality issue at stand: the difference between right and wrong. They seam to think that shoplifting is just a greedy addiction that is completely ridicules. These people believe that those who shoplift should go to jail and not be pitied or told they have an addiction/ disease. They believe doing so would be like telling them its okay to steal because really, they can’t help it.
Treatment usually involves behavior modification, such as a positive relationship with a therapist. Another treatment involves seeing the theft as an unconscious process and analyzing it as such in order to gain insight into the cause and eventually extinguish the behavior. It is very important for the sufferer to find another activity to replace the stealing. Also, it is very important to make the patient realize that others are harmed by his/her current activities. Kleptomania tends to be chronic in most affected people, but is easily curable.
Stanford University psychiatry department is currently doing a major research project on a new anti-depressant drug called Lexapro (manufactured by Forest Labs) to see if it can help with the habits of kleptomaniacs. There is a test scheduled to take place involving 2 dozen diagnosed kleptomaniacs who are not currently taking any form of treatment. After taking Lexapro for seven weeks, keeping track of their shoplifting habits and moods the volunteers will be placed evenly into a placebo group and a medicated group. Both groups will be required to keep track of their shoplifting habits for an additional 17 weeks.
It would seem strange for most “normal” people to comprehend why on earth a high paid Hollywood movie star would even consider shoplifting. In December of 2001 Winona Ryder was arrested for theft in almost $6,000 US from an upper class Beverly Hills store.
In November of 2001 Stephane Breitwieser, 31 from France was arrested in Switzerland for attempting to steal a bugle from a museum in Lucerne. After his arrest it was found that he was responsible for stealing more then $1.4 billion worth of paintings and other art objects from 6 different European countries and storing them in his mother’s basement for 8 years. Breitwieser had made no attempt to sell any of the 60 paintings or 112 art objects from the 17th and 18th centaury. Before being sentenced to prison it was decided by a psychologist that he suffered from Kleptomania.
When a 47 year old man received minor head injuries from hitting his head on a plastic divider in a taxi during a minor accident, he did not lose consciousness. An exam showed only normal results on both CT and MRI brain imaging and he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Afterwards though, he experienced, loss of the creative instinct and began kleptomaniac tendencies. Prior to the accident, the man had no antisocial or psychological problems. These changes appeared to be strictly from physical trauma.
For millions of people, theft is just another harmful way of coping with a stressful life. It is the same rational and desire that is behind many psychotic disorders (such as anorexia nervosa, alcohol/drug abuse, or even gambling). All of these disorders are not simply an issue of morally right vs. morally wrong, but are mental states in which the sufferer can not become better without professional help. It is the strong belief of most people that they could never possibly do something so wrong and illegal. The truth is that once the thought of theft has been replaced by the act of theft, there needs to be intense punishment both by the criminal system and the storeowners.
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