Dr Phil: Is Our Son a Kleptomaniac?
What is making a young man act out by stealing, trespassing, and even vandalizing homes? Dr Phil invited parents Nancy and Mark to his show, where they talked about 18-year-old Chris, who they fear is a Kleptomaniac. Chris is honest about the rush that comes from his behavior, and he tells people not to leave him alone. Why is he compelled to do this?
Dr Phil: Stealing Gives Him a Rush
According to his parents, Chris has had trouble telling the truth and been stealing things for the bulk of his life. Chris doesn’t necessarily steal based on the value of an item, though on occasion he has swiped watches and significant sums of cash. They don’t seem to have any idea what is driving his compulsive behavior.
Chris said that the only other activity in his life that gives him the same rush as stealing is playing video games. According to his 21-year-old sister Meredith, his behavior has disrupted her life, and she has to keep her valuables elsewhere because she knows Chris will try to steal them from the family home.
Dr Phil: Why Hasn’t This Thief Been Arrested?
Dr Phil questioned whether his parents believe that Chris truly cannot understand why his actions are wrong. Mark said that they have tried to get him to empathize with his victims by asking him how he would feel if someone stole from him.
As a former employee at a retail store, I have the same question for parents Nancy and Chris that Dr Phil wondered about: if Chris has been caught stealing so many times, why hasn’t he ever been arrested?
Though Nancy and Mark have taken him back to stores so he can confess to stealing, they say that stores have declined to press charges due to his previous status as a minor. Maybe they should try again now that he is 18. “We just impose our own consequences at home, and we hope that he’s going to get it,” Nancy said.
Dr Phil: Pervasive Developmental Disorder
Dr Phil pointed out that taking something that isn’t yours is typical human behavior at some point in life, usually during childhood. But that’s not what this family is dealing with. A list of some of the items he has stolen included CDs, DVDs, unauthorized credit card purchases for gift cards, plus airsoft guns, candy, souvenirs, and much more.
Dozens of experts have met with and/or evaluated Chris. But according to his parents, the only diagnoses anyone can come up with so far are Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Though Dr Phil said that sounded like plenty to deal with, Nancy was frustrated that no one has been able to put a plan into action to help their son.
Dr Phil: Breaking Into a Safe To Steal Cash
Chris gave Dr Phil’s cameras a tour of the family home and explained what his days are like. He sleeps until noon, and then starts looking for things to steal around the house at about 2 p.m. He also showed how he uses a knife to break into locked bedrooms.
Based on the home tour, I can also report that Chris’s parents have an ugly bedspread. There was once $1,700 in cash stored in a small safe in the closet. The safe has a fingerprint scanner, combination code, and key lock. But Chris just beat it up with tools to get inside.
Once he’s done in the house, Chris said he wanders around the neighborhood looking for open garages or other opportunities to steal. He even claims to have swiped a motor scooter, and says he shoplifts multiple times each week. “I feel like it’s an adrenaline rush,” he said. “It gets my blood pumping.”
Dr Phil: Stealing When Left Alone
Chris joined Dr Phil and his parents onstage, and Dr Phil wanted to know at what point in the day he knows for the first time that he is going to steal that day. He said that the problems begin when he is left alone. (That’s probably because he wakes up to an empty house in the middle of a day.) Sometimes he watches TV instead of stealing, though. Good for him?
In response to Dr Phil’s follow up question, Chris admitted that he will sometimes steal even when he does have money with him. He often goes into stores with the intention of shoplifting, and he admitted that he tries to pick out blind spots between security cameras.
Thief Steals from Dr Phil
Chris was left alone backstage in a green room so Dr Phil’s team could do an experiment. I guess you can’t call it entrapment since he admits to stealing and would be doing it whether they set him up or not. But what would Dr Phil have to say about it?
Chris claimed that he stole the pen from the hotel where he was staying during the taping. Then Dr Phil revealed the hidden camera video of Chris stealing the pen and talking to himself about it, even comparing it to a laser pointer. What about the second pen Dr Phil said Chris stole? He was holding out and hiding it in his pocket.
Dr Phil #IssuesWithStealing: Kleptomania Resources
Dr Phil said one of the biggest problems Chris has with his compulsive stealing is that he is not as good at it as he seems to think. He claimed he didn’t think the cameras in the green room were on. Clearly this family needs professional help to conquer Chris’s #IssuesWithStealing. Have you ever known someone who struggled with this type of compulsion? How were they able to overcome it?
For people who struggle, the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention offers self-help and support resources. In addition, you can find out whether a Kleptomaniacs Anonymous meeting is available near you. Some telephone-based options are also available.