A kleptomaniac is the general term for a person associated with the psychiatric disorder kleptomania, an illness that causes people to feel the need to steal things. Like any mental illness, kleptomania is surrounded by myths and misconceptions, and many people do not know the full extent of its symptoms. Below the cut is a brief guide on how to play a character with kleptomania.
Guide fully written by keir-reviews.
Firstly, let’s review how to play a character with a mental illness. In almost all cases, a person with a mental disorder will try to hide it as best they can, especially if the disorder has the potential to alienate them from others, or isolate them from the rest of society. Examples of these illnesses might be:
The list obviously goes on, but these are some of the more prevalent examples. Kleptomania also has the tendency to alienate people from those around them, so the disorder must be kept well-hidden by the afflicted person. Kleptomania, however, is even more secretive, because getting away with the theft is the most important part.
All About Kleptomania
Let’s review the facts. Kleptomania is a mental disorder, meaning the afflicted is unable to control the urge to steal something. Usually, this something is small and not particularly valuable - not even to the person stealing it.
Kleptomania is heavily associated with other mental illnesses, including OCD, anorexia/bulimia, and depression, among others. As a result or cause of any of these related illnesses, kleptomaniacs may display any or all of the following symptoms:
Carrying Out the Theft:
Remember that this disorder is heavily associated with OCD, and is, in many cases, considered to be an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in itself. The habitual urge to steal is generally impossible to fight without counselling and/or medical intervention.
There are many different kinds of treatment, as kleptomania is a highly controversial subject within the medical community. The most common form of therapy is that pertaining to other disorders that are associated with the illness - for example, depression, anxiety, or bulimia. It’s not uncommon for kleptomania to be misdiagnosed or undiagnosed altogether.
Myths and Misconceptions
There are many misconceptions surrounding kleptomania. Often, these misconceptions result in the afflicted person being alienated or isolated from the rest of society.
Playing a Kleptomaniac
Playing a character with kleptomania involves a combination of all the above information, as well as a deep knowledge of the personality of the character. Like any mental illness, kleptomania does not define the afflicted person, although it may control many of their actions and the way in which they perceive the world around them. Hiding the disorder is extremely important, and any stolen items will usually be stashed away where no-one will ever find them. Feelings such as guilt, stress, remorse, and anxiety about the stolen items will be prevalent, and other habitual actions may be displayed. Remember that kleptomania is associated with other disorders, such as anxiety, depression, anorexia, bulimia - and, most importantly - OCD, so the afflicted may be affected by one or more of these illnesses simultaneously.
Finally, be careful not to overplay the illness or make it cliched. While it is a powerful disorder and can take over a person’s life, there are other things the afflicted is able to do. Make sure you use the correct terminology and metalanguage so as to make a realistic character, and as a sign of respect for anyone afflicted with the illness.
If you have any additional questions about the disorder, my ask box is always open. If you have any problems with the way this guide has been written, or would like to add to it from personal experience, you are welcome to come to my ask box.