Calling someone a ‘klepto’ has become a cliché. I hate clichés but in this case I’m using the short hand version of an actual psychiatric term. Mild impulse control is one thing, but a real kleptomaniac is really odd. What they do is uncontrollable, so it’s hard to be upset with them. Supposedly there’s little or no treatment for them except anti-depressants that don’t really stop thieving and some kind of psychotherapy that doesn’t work so great either.
I’ve actually met two real kleptomaniacs in my lifetime. Kleptomania is called an ‘impulse control disorder’ and boy is it. Real kleptos don’t come along too often because supposedly the disorder is fairly rare. The docs say only .6% of the population has a form of this disease and only a small percentage of those have it so bad that they can’t control themselves. You’ll know when you meet a real one because they operate by snatching small stuff and it’s usually always something they don’t need. Little things are easy to slip in your purse and they satisfy their mental illness for a few minutes.
The thing is that kleptos steal stuff all the time. It’s a volume business for them. You have to talk with them out on the sidewalk so they don’t rip off everything they can get their hands on in your conference room. Both of the kleptos I’ve met were women, although I don’t think that is evidence of any kind of trend. They looked like anyone’s little old grandmother. They smiled sweetly when I talked to them. One of them I’ll call ‘Grandma’ offered me little pieces of candy she got from her purse. It was probably the first time in a while that she gave something back because it was the candy we used to have in the dish out front that morning.
After ‘Grandma’ was arrested a few times the police executed a search warrant on her home and found six foot high piles of little stuff. The pictures of what they found were absolutely unbelievable She was a hoarder of small stolen things. It was heaped everywhere. There was so much of it there that it was a health hazard, fire hazard, environmental hazard, you name it. It was just dangerous. Apparently the woman organized her stolen stuff in the beginning like hairspray in that pile, nail polish over there, etc. But for the last few years she stopped bothering and just dumped it in piles wherever there was room and the stacks were out of control. Entire rooms were filled up to the ceiling. Apparently in the last few years she had preferred to steal cheap trinkets like little painted animals with big teary looking eyes.
Grandma’s living space was clean, though. I’ll give her that. It wasn’t anything like one of those episodes of hoarders on TV where there are just disgusting piles of trash everywhere. This woman kept what little living space she still had nice and organized.