Author: Allison Seigler
This Stuff You Should Know episode was a SYSK Selects episode from 2009. It was about kleptomania and was released during the Christmas season because theft increases significantly during this time of year. Many people feel justified in stealing because it feels like you’re stealing from a faceless corporation and that it is a victimless crime. However, corporations make consumers pay for the loss of profit. Consumers pay an extra $436 per household per year because of theft in America.
The podcast made an important distinction between stealing and kleptomania. A very small percentage of all people who steal are kleptomaniacs. A kleptomaniac is a person who “repeatedly fails to resist the impulse to steal items that are not needed for personal use or monetary value.” A typical kleptomaniac will enter a store without an intention to steal but will suddenly feel an overwhelming tension. This tension can only be relieved if the person steals a specific object. Most of the time, kleptomaniacs don’t even use the items they steal; they only steal because of the uncontrollable impulse to do so. Most people with kleptomania feel a deep sense of guilt for their actions.
Kleptomania is seen as a primarily feminine disorder because women are diagnosed with kleptomania disproportionately more often. However, the hosts acknowledged that this is probably because men do not seek psychiatric treatment for kleptomania as often. True kleptomaniacs are extremely difficult to find, so research on kleptomania is extremely limited. Some think kleptomania may actually be a side effect of another mental illness, such as OCD.
This episode of SYSK shared some really interesting information about a relatively unknown topic. While most people have heard of kleptomania, few understand how it works. I personally had no idea that kleptomania is an uncontrollable impulse to steal without any desire for the objects being stolen. This episode helps educate people on a type of mental illness that is not typically talked about very often and sheds light on a lot of common misconceptions.