Kleptophobia (Fear of Stealing)
Kleptophobia is the irrational fear of stealing. Someone suffering from this condition can expect to experience a very high amount of anxiety from merely thinking of stealing, let alone actually doing it. In fact, their anxiety may be so intense that they may even endure a full blown panic attack as a result of it. Although this will not always be the case for everyone suffering from kleptophobia, it is still very plausible to occur nonetheless.
Someone experiencing a full blown panic attack as a result of their kleptophobia can expect to have an increased heart rate, an increased rate of breathing, higher blood pressure, muscle tension, trembling, and excessive sweating, among several other symptoms. Although this may not be the case for everyone suffering from kleptophobia, it is still possible, especially if their symptoms are very severe.
Someone suffering from kleptophobia may find themselves avoiding that which they fear. They may take this to the extreme by ensuring that they are in no way being exposed to stealing in any way. For example, someone with this condition may refuse to even pick up a dime off of the street due to their beliefs that doing so may in fact be stealing. Such excessive worry and irrational thinking is likely to be one of the main causes of their mental anguish.
Although someone with this condition may actively avoid their fear in an attempt to help them reduce their chances of experiencing any immediate anxiety, doing so may also worsen their symptoms of kleptophobia in the long term due to the fact that they would also be justifying their fear to themselves by actively avoiding it.
Symptoms of Kleptophobia
As is the case with virtually every other phobia that exists, someone with kleptophobia can expect anxiety to be the most prominent symptom of their condition. Also, as previously mentioned, their anxiety may be so extreme that they may even endure full blown panic attacks as a result of it. Depending on the severity of their panic attack, they may even need to be hospitalized. However, this will vary from person to person and will be dependent on many factors.
Furthermore, someone with kleptophobia may go to painstaking efforts to ensure that they do not come into contact with their fear in any way. This may mean them not only avoiding areas where they may come into contact with their fear, but also that they may actively try to prevent it from happening by taking a more hands-on approach.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of kleptophobia:
Anxiety when thinking of stealing
Intense anxiety when watching someone else steal
Constantly avoiding stealing
Unable to cope with their anxiety
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Kleptophobia
There are no definitive causes of kleptophobia. Nevertheless, genetics and one’s environment may both play very significant roles in the development of this condition. For example, if someone has a family history of mental illness, especially of anxiety disorders or specific phobias, then they may have a higher chance of developing kleptophobia. This may be due to them then having a genetic predisposition to developing mental illness in general.
If someone were to have such genetics, then it may only require that they experience some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown kleptophobia. Essentially, any sort of emotionally painful event that involved the various fears associated with kleptophobia in some way may be enough for someone to develop this condition insofar as they have the proper genetics.
Although we do not know the exact causes of kleptophobia, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that both genetics and environmental factors play very significant roles in the development of any given mental disorder. So, taking a closer look at these two different parameters may shed some light as to whether or not you may be at risk for developing kleptophobia.
Just as there are no definitive causes of kleptophobia, there are also no treatments that are specifically designed for this condition either. Nevertheless, there are still many different forms of treatment that can help to significantly improve many of the symptoms of kleptophobia. Some of these treatments include exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and some psychiatric medications, among others.
Exposure therapy is one of the most common forms of treatment for people suffering from phobias. Exposure therapy works by having the therapist gradually expose the patient to their fear over a given period of time. With regards to kleptophobia, there are not many ways to ethically implement exposure therapy as it would not be wise to encourage the patient to steal. Nevertheless, there may be ways to ethically do so insofar as they are taking trivial things, such as a penny found on the ground or some other arbitrary thing that has little worth and is not owned by anyone. Theoretically, the more someone is exposed to something they fear, the less it will bother them over time.
CBT is another very common form of treatment that is often used to help people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), among other conditions. Moreover, it may also be effective at helping to treat people suffering from phobias like kleptophobia as well. CBT works by having the therapist help the patient to uncover why it is that they think, feel, and behave the way they do with regards to a particular fear or concern they have.
Someone with kleptophobia partaking in CBT can expect to learn why it is that they think the way they do about their fear, among other things. Understanding such things may help someone with kleptophobia to take a more pragmatic approach when thinking about their fear of stealing.
If you think you may have kleptophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms that have been described in this article, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, you may then be referred to see a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist for further treatment.