Anon Advice: I am a kleptomaniac
Dear Ms. Anon Advice,
I am a well educated, well settled man. Everything seems to be going well, except a realization I've come to about myself. I am a kleptomaniac. I don't need the things I steal, I don't steal anything worthwhile either, but I do. Sometimes, I even throw the things away, mostly because if I keep them with me I'll be found out, but also because they remind me of my dark secret and it makes me cringe about myself.
I believe this started around the time I started with my A Levels. If I'm completely honest with myself, I think it was due to peer pressure and I started shop lifting 'cool' and 'trendy' items. It always felt like a race I was always catching up to.
But I now have a decent enough life. I have a good job, I earn and save well, I have a place of my own, no real responsibilities as such. So I don't know what my need is exactly that I keep stealing things, even from my friends when I visit their place or even if I spot something in their car. It doesn't happen always, and interestingly, I'm very careful about not leaving patterns or clues behind, and I'm also very careful about not stealing something big. But now it's turning into a problem for me too. Apart from all the guilt and confusion, I'm now beginning to lose some sleep over it, and it's constantly at the back of my mind. I find myself cooking up and practicing scenarios where if I was ever asked about anything related to a stolen item I'd have alibis and justifications ready, which should make me look even more suspicious to anyone who even remotely thinks like me. I don't know, how do I stop? Do I have a disease I should get checked for? Please help me out.
Anxiously awaiting your response.
Dear Guilty Thief,
I'm happy for you, because you've taken the first step, which is the most difficult, but also the most important one: acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step towards finding and practising a solution.
From the looks of it, it started out due to a need to fit in, but later developed into a terrible habit you can't shake off. You need to evaluate yourself whether you still think low of yourself and are doing this to compensate for that in front of others, or is it really just an unshakeable habit. Most likely, it is more of the latter because it bothers you. Regardless, you need to show yourself, not others, what your own worth is, and how you don't need this to feel good about yourself. Because let's face it, you don't feel good even after the fact.
As far as efforts on your own part go to quit this habit, you need to develop a strong resolve and just go cold turkey. Just stop. Do whatever it takes to stick to your new resolve. For example, if you feel like stealing an item, immediately start praising it in front of the owner or others, so that you know that now that you've spoken so fondly of it in front of an audience, if you take it, you'll be the first one to become a suspect.
Secondly, don't ever leave yourself in your own company. This isn't a long term solution, so don't let your Thief self depend on your need to surround yourself with potential witnesses whose presence stops you. Rather treat it as a transitional support system.
Thirdly, take someone into confidence who can keep an eye on you, and help you vent via other ways.
Fourth, every time you steal something, penalize yourself, and be honest about that. Perhaps throw away and destroy a personal item that you absolutely love. This trick too should help you. But in all this, key is honesty and rigidity with yourself.
If this still don't improve after all your consistent efforts after a few weeks/months, I recommend that you seek therapy, get to the bottom of this, and only once you tackle the original trigger can you get over this.
And hey, you're not a bad person, nor do you need someone else to tell you your worth, most certainly not their things.
All the best!
Ms. Anon Advice
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