Stealing Addiction – How to Stop

stealing-as-an-addictionLarson is a well-respected man. He participates in community outreach programs, regularly donates chunks of his wealth to charity and even hands out soup to the homeless on every holiday he can.

By day he is a stock broker, and by night a humanitarian… except when he goes shopping. Larson lives a double life. When he goes to the mall, he obsessive-compulsively steals items, some he wants, and some he doesn’t even care for. When grocery shopping, he hides things on the bottom of his cart and walks out with them. Even his friends feel the wrath, as many small things seemingly disappear around him. Larson has a stealing addiction.

Kleptomania VS Addictive-Compulsive Theft

According to the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending & Hoarding, which hosts Kleptomaniacs Anonymous, kleptomania is a rarely-diagnosed disorder with different characteristics than the more common addictive-compulsive theft. Basic differences between the two are as follows:

Kleptomania Addictive-Compulsive Theft
Steals for no monetary gain Steals to better self
Tension increase beforehand Tense entire time
Pleasure at time of theft only Pleasure after theft
No remorse, may even be unaware Remorse usually felt
Not angry when stealing Likely to be angry when stealing

Basically, if you find yourself stealing random items for no purpose, and you cannot control this urge, you likely have kleptomania. However, if you find you cannot stop stealing things you desire and you feel guilt or shame afterward, chances are you’re an addictive-compulsive thief  Either way, there is help available to you, although currently that help is limited. (See bottom of article.) More and more experts are agreeing nowadays that stealing can be an addiction, just like drug and alcohol abuse can be, as reported by CBS News.

Theft as an Addiction, not just a Crime

Terrence Shulman, founder of the aforementioned Shulman Center, is the leading expert on theft as an addiction. A former addictive-compulsive theft himself, (as well as a lawyer), Shulman realized he was addicted, not just breaking the law. He set out to help himself and others like him, and founded the Shulman Center, which is the largest stealing-addiction recovery network available.

In an article written for Addiction Professional, Shulman notes that 10% of Americans shoplift regularly, nearly 70% of arrested shoplifters will repeat the offense, and a whopping 75% of Americans have stolen from the workplace.

The fact that 10% of Americans admit to shoplifting regularly is simply astounding. Further research on these 32 million people may show a majority of them to be addicted to stealing.  Foundations like Mr. Shulman’s serve to treat these addictions, but perhaps because stealing is a private and taboo thing, many people do not treat their addiction. This is perhaps illustrated most greatly by the fact that 70% of those caught stealing go and do it again.

In Conclusion

If you took a Milky Way from a gas station once and also borrowed money from your uncle but never paid him back, you are not addicted to stealing.  If every Thursday night you steal a Milky Way, and borrow money from people constantly without paying them back, you may be addicted to stealing.  This is all to say that only you know the difference.  If you believe you may be addicted to stealing, there is help:

The Shulman Center

Help for Shoplifters

The Pathways Institute for Impulse Control

Also, there are conference calls available three times a week, open to anyone anywhere who wants to discuss their addiction to stealing.  Click here for the days, times, and phone numbers.