Concept of the Month -- August 2005

"Kleptomania": A Reality or a Psychiatric Invention?

Kleptomania is known as compulsive stealing. It is a psychiatric disorder. Frankly, in 35 years, I've never encountered a true case of this. Kleptomaniacs, in reality,
are thieves -- people who steal frequently and usually with great proficiency. They develop a modus operandi which takes time and practice. They then become so
skilled that they case out their targets and proceed with the theft very quickly. They are under no compulsion to steal. If they think there is a good chance of getting caught (e.g., they spot cameras in a store or a security officer), they go elsewhere.

I recall a woman who "took orders" each day before she "went to work." Every day, she went to stores and pilfered items. She got away with far more than
was ever known. Occasionally, she slipped up and was apprehended. Certainly, to an observer, she might have appeared as a kleptomaniac. Like others who
steal frequently, she made choices to do what she did. This was not an impulse or other psychiatric disorder.

Kleptomania seems to be exist in the minds of mental health professionals who do not understand the mental makeup and conduct of the proficient thief.

Stanton E. Samenow

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