Essay Preview: Kleptomania
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Kleptomania is a recurrent failure to resist the impulse to steal objects not needed for personal use or their monetary value. There is an increasing sense of tension preceding the unplanned theft, followed by a relief at the time of the theft. The theft is not done with others and not done out of anger or vengeance. Because kleptomaniacs obtain gratification from the act of stealing rather than from possession of the stolen articles, they often steal objects of little value that they could easily buy.
It is a psychiatric condition better recognised in the US, where the actor Winona Ryder was arrested in December 2001, after being caught in Saks Fifth Avenue on the sort of camera she would never have posed for, stuffing clothes she hadnt paid for into her bag. She told the court, which convicted her of theft, that she was getting into character for the part of a kleptomaniac in a new film.
Kleptomania affects mostly women and is hard to distinguish from plain criminal shoplifting. But frequently these petty thieves have underlying depression and have suffered from eating disorders – bulimia or anorexia nervosa. None of that may be picked up when they are hauled off to the police station or brought to stand in the dock months later.
So it is more than likely that many women with this psychological disorder – it gives them a marked sense of relief as they scurry from the department store with a pillowcase under their coat – are now in jail, their lives destroyed by the stain of criminality. Although psychiatrists regard kleptomania as an impulse control disorder, the disorder is not recognized as a legal defense for theft in U.S. or British courts.
The DSM IV says about Kleptomania:
DSM-IV 312.32 KleptomaniaDiagnostic Features
The essential feature of Kleptomania is the recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal items even though the items are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value.
Criterion A- The individual experiences a rising subjective sense of tension before the theft
Criterion B-Feels pleasure, gratification, or relief when committing the theft
Criterion C-The stealing is not committed to express anger or vengeance, is not done in response to a delusion or hallucination.