Even in this day and age, mental health issues are not discussed enough, and unfortunately, as a society, we lack awareness of many mental health concerns which affect the lives of numerous individuals. Not only it makes us misunderstand the world around us but it also makes it harder for people to overcome the results of their mental disorders. Thus, as sensible human beings, it is crucial that we make an effort to improve our tolerance of the people surrounding us through education and curiosity. That being said, this article will look into a rather infamous mental health condition that is inclined to be misinterpreted: Kleptomania.
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First of all, we need to fully understand what this condition means. It can simply be described as an uncontrollable urge for stealing. The person might know what they are about to do is completely wrong, however, the compulsion caused by the disorder is incredibly high that they do not have the ability to resist it. It should definitely not be seen as a lack of moral value or willpower considering that it is medical and classified as a type of impulse control disorder. Some other impulse control disorders can be listed as oppositional defiant disorder (ongoing symptoms of anger), intermittent explosive disorder (episodes of impulsive behaviors), conduct disorder (constant disregard), and pyromania (being unable to resist starting fires). It is quite powerful and the episodes happen suddenly. The urge arises even when the person doesn’t find an object interesting or useful, and they most often feel guilty and shameful after having stolen an object. Hence, it can be said that is a serious disorder that needs to be supervised by a medical professional since it can result in heavy emotional distress and even legal problems.
The first step to overcoming this disorder is to successfully diagnose it. Self-diagnosing is discouraged by many medical professionals since it can cause further problems in the future. However, having knowledge regarding the symptoms can make us more aware of the disorder and eventually helps us become more sensible of other individuals who may be suffering from it and also guide us on knowing when to seek professional assistance for ourselves. As far as where the current information leads us, we know that only 0.3%-0.6% of the population is affected by this disorder. Most frequent symptoms include impulsively shoplifting items that are not needed, feeling positive tension before stealing and guilt after having stolen, a short period of satisfaction during stealing, and sometimes returning the items in secret because of shame. People living with this issue also have the tendency to commit theft in public places and they typically do not use or profit from the stolen object as the feeling of guilt does not let them.
Surprisingly, the causes of this disorder are still unknown. It is predicted that the imbalance of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain causes the urge. This abnormality results in a defect in communication between the areas of the brain, making it not respond to compulsions the way it is supposed to. Furthermore, external factors such as stress, depression, and psychological trauma at a young age may affect the occurrence of the disorder. Experts do not declare certainly that genetics play a role; however, it has been observed that people who live with kleptomania usually have a family history of various other mental health conditions such as depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and addiction.
Having obtained the necessary information about kleptomania, there is still one important question to ask: Is there a way to manage this disorder and minimize its effects and episodes?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. Even though a direct treatment for this medical disorder does not exist yet, a combination of therapies can help people increase their quality of life and prevent some of the mentioned problems from appearing. The most typically used option is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It is basically a talking therapy that aims to control one’s behaviors or urges and it plays a key role in managing the distressing effects of kleptomania on a daily basis. It is also used for a wide range of other disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and insomnia. In some cases, experts can also recommend mood stabilizers or other medication treatment that aims to increase the serotonin levels in the brain.
By comprehending the lives and struggles of certain minority groups, we become more broad-minded, tolerant, and reactive. It is crucial that we keep our everlasting interest in ensuring a society where people show empathy towards each other. Thus, as of now, we are one step closer to understanding the individuals that we share our environment and social surroundings with.
Written By: Şevval Kalkan
Edited By: Simay Cemre Tülübaş & Yağmur Ece Nisanoğlu
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