Kleptomania is a psychological disorder in which a person feels an overpowering urge to go out and steal items, which usually have no real use or value to them. A person who suffers from kleptomania generally will feel an urge or tension to steal a vast variety of items ranging from large, valuable items to small, common items such as paperclips. When a person with kleptomania steals an item the tension that they feel is suppressed for that moment, but often sufferers find that the urge will just come back stronger.
Kleptomania can be debilitating to a person. It arises as an urge, feels like it needs to be suppressed and the only way to suppress or relieve oneself from the urge is to get a “thrill” from stealing objects. This is harmful because it is not only against the law, but is can also be against the persons moral code. Often after a person steals an item they will feel guilty which can have an effect on their self-esteem and self worth.
Hoarding disorder shares many similarities with kleptomania. This disorder of hoarding, like kleptomania, involves the acquisition of objects. A person with compulsive hoarding will find it very difficult to discard items that they have. A sufferer of hoarding will often feel an urge to go out and purchase items they may perceive to be of value, or potential value, and can often purchase the same type of items numerous times. A person who hoards items will buy items they do not have yet, however after a while they can forget or not realise how many items they have acquired and purchase items they already have stored somewhere.
Hoarding greatly affects a person in that they can acquire so many objects or items that they start to build up to great numbers, and in extreme cases can take over a person’s entire home. The objects that the person obtains can soon build up a sentimental value to them, which can make the item very hard to throw away. Not only space consuming, but hoarding can be financially straining and time consuming to the sufferer, which can be very debilitating.
Both of these disorders can over-run a person’s normal way of living, however treatments are available and can reduce the urges that a person may feel with either of these disorders. With the aid of a psychologist a person can learn how the disorder affects them, understand their pattern of urges and urge relieving actions and in turn begin to break the beliefs of needing to hold onto or steal items.
The most common and most effective form of treatment is systematic desensitisation, which involves gradually coming to terms with identifying when the urge arises and what can be done to suppress the urge without having to acquire/steal or hold onto items. For a person who hoards items, systematic desensitisation would gradually ease into discarding unneeded items until the urge a person feels to hold onto items is reduced. And for a person experiencing kleptomania, systematic desensitisation would aid them to imagine themselves in a situation in which an urge could arise and gradually assist them in relaxing themselves in such situations to avoid the action of theft. Both these approached allow a person to develop more helpful patterns of managing their urges.