Addiction Psychiatrist Questions Kleptomania

I saw my daughter stealing money from my bag. Could it be kleptomania?

I saw my 16 year old daughter stealing money from my bag and when I pressed her and asked if she had done this before, she said that she had done it several times and has even shoplifted from stores, like CVS and Walgreens. Could this be a sign of kleptomania? How should I deal with this?

6 Answers

Please take her to a counselor.
Shoplifting could be kleptomania. Stealing from your purse is not. Kleptomania is more like spontaneous, not planned stealing. Going to your purse is planned. In many cases of teenagers stealing money from parents or siblings, it's to support their drug habit. Have a serious talk with your daughter about using illicit substances.
Kleptomania is a type of impulsive behavior where stealing satisfies a psychological urge, often times accompanied by remorse later. If there is no remorse associated with the stealing behavior then one might consider possibility of conduct disorder. There could also be psychological reasons behind the stealing behavior such as bid for attention or a need to fill something perceived as a loss in her life. Whatever the cause your daughter needs to be evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
You have to find out why she is stealing.
There are a number of explanations as to why a teen might take money or objects -- I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that your daughter has kleptomania. Sometimes this sort of behavior is a plea for more attention. But since it seems to have been going on for a while -- and since there could be bad consequences such as an arrest for shoplifting if this continues to happen in stores -- it would probably be wise to seek out assistance from a mental health professional rather than trying to take care of it on your own. Your family physician might be able to recommend a reliable adolescent specialist, or your local chapter of Mental Health America may be able to provide recommendations. In any case, such problems are quite treatable, so I wish your daughter a speedy resolution, whatever the cause!

Alan D. Schmetzer, M.D.
Without knowing the age of your daughter and other information about her, I would be hesitant to jump to a diagnosis of kleptomania. It is more likely an antisocial act, that is, not respecting the property of others were doing what is morally correct. Do you have any ideas about what she wanted the money for? Perhaps drugs or closing which you do not buy for her? My experience with people with kleptomania is that they can often easily afford the items or take things which are of trivial interest to them. It may be a part of other compulsive behaviors, such as gambling or substance-abuse, and the excitement of define being caught may be a factor

Your daughter may need some lessons, perhaps from a therapist, about empathy, understanding the impact of her behaviors on how she is viewed by others, and developing trust from her parents which she will need to be trusted with other privileges as she gets older.

David Nover