Each year around 27 million people shoplift in the United States.1 This theft is the reason for nearly $49 billion dollars’ worth of loss.2 Reasons for shoplifting vary, and many are connected to mental health and wellness.
A person may shoplift because he or she has any of the following:
- Personal financial struggles
- Other impulse-control issues
- Shoplifting addiction
- The need to financially support a drug or alcohol addiction
Shoplifting is a crime, but it can also be a sign that a person needs help, understanding and professional support. Treatment for mental health and substance use disorders exists, is effective and can make a real difference in your or a loved one’s life. Learn more about shoplifting addiction and kleptomania. Learn where and how you can find real help.
What Is Kleptomania?
Kleptomania is a rare condition. It is an impulse-control condition that causes the affected person to be unable to resist stealing objects even if the objects are unneeded. A person with kleptomania does not plan to steal items in advance. He or she often feels great remorse after the anxiety and lots of anxiety before and during. There is a great deal of tension before committing theft and a sense of relief after the theft is complete. However this relief is often tempered by guilt and regret.
Like other mental health disorders, kleptomania may be accompanied by a substance use disorder as a person tries to relieve pre-theft anxiety or post-theft guilt. This isn’t a real solution to any problem and complicates mental health and treatment. Although individuals with kleptomania may not initially be able to control their impulses to steal, they can make the choice to get professional help and change these automatic behaviors. Kleptomania doesn’t have to rule a person’s actions, emotions or life.
What Is Shoplifting Addiction?
A shoplifting addiction is similar to kleptomania. A person with a shoplifting addiction will experience the following:
- An overwhelming desire to shoplift items
- A constant tension and pressure to shoplift with repetitive thoughts about shoplifting
- A very brief time of relief after shoplifting
This is because, for some people, shoplifting provides a rush or “high.” They experience a flood of feel-good chemicals similar to what occurs when a person uses drugs or alcohol. They begin to seek this experience again and again, looking for the “high” rather than the merchandise they are taking.
The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) explains, “Drug addicts, who have become addicted to shoplifting, describe shoplifting as equally addicting as drugs.”1 You don’t have to use a substance to experience addiction. Behaviors like shoplifting can be as or even more addictive. NASP continues, “57 percent of adults and 33 percent of juveniles say it is hard for them to stop shoplifting even after getting caught.”
As with any addiction, a primary symptom is continuing to use a substance or engage in a behavior despite experiencing negative consequences. The action begins to grow beyond a person’s control. However as with kleptomania, professional treatment and support provides real avenues for healing and recovery.
Should I Seek Professional Help for Shoplifting Addiction or Kleptomania?
No matter the reason for shoplifting, it isn’t fun. Even people who experience temporary relief from anxiety or feel “high” after the act find themselves trapped by negative emotions and the need to shoplift again. Neither shoplifting addiction nor kleptomania get better on their own. So when is it time to get help?
Consider reaching out to a professional if you answer “yes” to any of the following questions:
- Do you attempt or plan to stop shoplifting but find yourself unable to do so?
- Do you shoplift to ease feelings of anxiety or distress?
- Do you plan or anticipate your next shoplifting trip?
- Do you feel isolated, alone or depressed because of your shoplifting?
- Have you continued to shoplift even though you have faced relationship problems, employment problems, legal problems or emotional problems due to the shoplifting?
You may be afraid to seek help for your compulsive shoplifting, drug use or mental health concern. Don’t let stigma hold you back. Millions of people shoplift, and millions more struggling with addiction and mental health issues. Treatment is compassionate and confidential, and it works.
Call Black Bear at 706-914-2327 to learn more about kleptomania, addiction and your best course of action. You don’t have to struggle with any of this alone.
By Alanna Hilbink, Contributing Writer
1 “Shoplifting Statistics.” National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. 2014.
2 Reilly, Katie. “Shoplifting and Other Fraud Cost Retailers Nearly $50 Billion Last Year.” Time. 22 Jun. 2017.