Kleptomania: The Compulsion to Steal - What Can Be Done

Marcus J. Goldman, Author New Horizon $14.95 (228p) ISBN 978-0-88282-158-0
Kleptomania, according to psychiatrist Goldman (The Joy of Fatherhood: The First Twelve Months), is a little-understood disorder that has less to do with stealing than with temporary relief of unbearable anxiety and depression. Often confused with ordinary theft, kleptomania is unique in several ways. It involves recurrent irresistible impulses to steal things the thief doesn't need and can afford to buy; it is triggered by increased anxiety that is temporarily relieved by the stealing; and it is done alone and kept secret. Kleptomaniacs don't use or sell the items they steal but hide or discard them, and they plunge into great remorse and increased low self-worth as a result of stealing. Goldman likens kleptomania to addictions and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and he reports that it often appears in combination with other personality and behavioral problems. ""Entrenched in sadness"" and uniformly reporting ""tumultuous childhoods"" and experiences of ""early deprivations or losses,"" kleptomaniacs develop their habit in adulthood as an unconscious self-treatment for depression and self-loathing. Because of the secretive nature of the disorder, most kleptomaniacs fail to seek therapy until referred by the courts after an arrest. Successful treatment depends on a combination of medications, psychotherapy and behavior modification techniques. This is a fascinating exploration of a painful, destructive disorder that, according to Goldman, is much more common than we think. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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