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Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I am sitting here shaking with fright! Even though, in my heart of hearts I felt this day would come, I couldn’t help myself. I know I have something wrong with me but it took getting arrested by the police to finally make me realize what a horrible thing I was doing and the shame and degradation I would be subjected to should I continue to deny what I did. I pushed that aside a million time, allowing myself to believe that I’d never get caught. But today I got caught and I knew I had to get help. Please help me by telling me what to do.


For as far back as I could remember, even as a young child, I always had a habit of taking things, as a little kid it was candy and toys and as I got older the things I took got bigger. I was an immigrant child whose parents never had two dimes to rub together so when I saw my friends have so much more, I found myself squirreling away small candy under my clothes when my mother took me shopping with her. It was so easy and it made me feel so good that I could have those sweets and no one said anything. I remember the first rush I got when I hid little toys in my bulky snowsuit or even things I didn’t even want. It was just such a rush to do it and no one was the wiser.

As I got older, twelve or so, and having been taught about the sin of stealing, I never equated what I was doing as stealing, but the reality was always in the back of my head that what I was doing was wrong! Still, that high of swiping things from stores, some that I wanted and even things I didn’t really want, became a compulsion I couldn’t resist. Subconsciously whenever I passed a store, the draw to go in and take something was debilitating. As I grew into adulthood, finishing college, getting married and having children of my own, the things I took got bigger too, the risks I took were greater, the rush was so overpowering and the fear of getting caught was ever present but as always, I was able to stifle it. Oh, there were times when I felt security was watching me, and those were the times I put things back walking out empty-handed and stressed out because of it. But those times were few and far between.

Something strange happened recently. After I had come home from a successful swipe in a clothing store, a strong sense of self-loathing for what I had done took the place of that powerful rush, but it was short lived. Still, it left me uneasy and made me extremely cautious. There were now bigger spans of time without my wanting to take something without paying for it, more fear of getting caught. Until this morning, after I was leaving from a business meeting, my purse filled with little knick knacks from the hotel gift shop. I was horrified and mortified as I was escorted out of the hotel by security police and the moment I realized I was sick. I had heard about people who did what I did because they were kleptomaniacs, but I never related this to me.

Fortunately I got a summons to appear before a compassionate judge who looked at this sixty-year-old weeping woman with no previous record and let me go with a staunch warning that I needed help and if ever I was caught doing this again, I would be spending time in prison. I was shaking all the way back to my apartment. So many thoughts, from shame, disgust with myself, fear and what made me do what I did and become this felon that almost got arrested for it. I thought of the help I needed and I also thought that I needed to talk to you first, for clarity, direction and some words of solace that I could be helped at this late stage in my life. I await your reply because I am too ashamed to enclose any contact information.


Dear Friend,

I feel your angst and great fear for what took place in your life today. Perhaps this was the wake up call and first step you take to getting better and fighting the strong urges that got you here. I also understand your need to know how you got here. I will try to shed some light on your problem and how it is manifested.

Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder that results in an irresistible urge to steal. The cause of this disorder remains unknown but risk factors include a family history of kleptomania or other impulse control disorders and occurs more often in women It is also a disorder that causes an urge to steal items that aren’t needed and are usually of little value. Consequences can include job loss, financial penalties and trouble with the law. No cure exists, but treatment with talk therapy and medication such as antidepressants may help end the cycle of compulsive stealing.

There may be one more reason for the making of a kleptomaniac and that occurs in early babyhood and childhood, an explanation that is completely my own. How many times have I seen a little one grab at a small toy sitting on a checkout counter, or cookie while mom is making her purchases and instead of taking it away ad saying “No, we do not take something that doesn’t belong to us,” the vendor will say “such a cute baby, let her have it!” When we excuse something in this way, we are allowing a certain mind-frame to take shape in a little mind, one that may not appear until later in life. It’s a stretch, but I’ve seen this happen many times over and by permitting such behavior, a vital opportunity to enforce good traits is missed and transforms into entitlement and theft in later years. If your child is offered a cookie at the bakery, either offer to pay for it or ask the vender to say it’s a gift for the well-behaved child.

Back to you and what you experience today, I thinks this had to happen for you to really understand the deep-rooted aspect of your disorder. You are a classic case kleptomaniac and you definitely should get to a therapist to begin untangling all the possibilities that were factors in your developing this condition and age is not a factor to the success rate in curbing the symptoms. You already experienced what it feels like to get caught and it surely outweighs the momentary thrill of stealing a tube of lipstick or a scarf! Stay with the program, it may take a while but I think that after all you experienced and a sincere effort and determination to bring about change of habit you will win over the disorder. Good luck!

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