Let's talk shop (lifting)

  • By Team TDO

We have often come across news of celebrities who are caught 'pinching stuff' from a supermarket or store. It's amazing, isn't it, that someone who probably owns a jet should indulge in petty thieving? Rest assured 'compulsive stealing' or kleptomania is a serious condition and is not restricted to stars alone.

According to a law journal, "Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder characterized by the inability to resist impulses to steal objects that are not generally acquired for personal use or monetary gain. The individual concerned describes a compulsive urge to steal. The behavior is classically accompanied by an increasing sense of tension before, and a palpable sense of relief immediately after and during the act."

The kleptomaniac also goes through periods of guilt and shame for the act. The item or object of his fascination may not always be expensive, in fact, it could be quite cheap, but for the kleptomaniac, the urge to steal the object completely over-rides everything else.

Take the case of Wynona Rider, who stole clothing and hair accessories, or Lindsey Lohan who was caught with a $2,500 necklace that she claimed she was just borrowing. These celebrity shoplifters have been the poster girls for kleptomania in recent times.

What causes kleptomania?

Kleptomania is basically an impulsivity disorder. The exact cause of kleptomania is not known. Some theories suggest that changes in the brain might be the cause, though this is not sure. Counseling can, to some extent, cure the symptoms of impulsivity. Just as someone is addicted to gambling or doing drugs, shoplifters may be addicted to stealing things. However, research has been largely inconclusive to fully explain the phenomenon of kleptomania.