By Sagarika Mitra:
She woke up in the morning, startled with a fear that had engulfed her for quite some time now. She had the same nightmares for months and it had always managed to scare her to death. The embarrassment, the humiliation, all the eyes staring at her in a way that made her feel like she was being stripped publicly and could do nothing to cover her shame. She saw her parents standing in one corner of the street with their heads hung in shame. Her mother hid her face in her father’s shoulder and kept on weeping continuously. She heard the same words echo in her ears again and again — ‘thief, thief’. Another night brought her to a morning which jerked all her fears and made her believe that she was lying on her bed, numb with fear, drenched in sweat and a lump in her throat which refused to go down.
She whispered a silent prayer, asking for the same thing one more time. She promised that no matter what, she would control her urge to flick other’s things. She looked at the cupboard which faced her bed. After sometime, she moved the sheet that covered her feet and advanced towards it. Her hands trembled as she was opening the door of the cupboard. She looked at all those things which lay there in the right end. A few hair clips, some twenty odd pens, a wallet, two watches, a half eaten candy wrapped in silver paper, a pair of ear phones, some fancy looking bands and some other stationery. She was thinking about all the times that compelled her to flick all those things that did not belong to her when her phone rang, it was her mother calling. She closed the door in haste and picked it up after a breath. She told her mother that she would be joining them for breakfast in a while. Putting behind all her fears, she pasted a smile on her face and started off with her daily routine.
Malini was nineteen years of age. She studied in one of the city’s most reputed college. She was very reserved and did not have many friends. Her parents were not very close to her either. Their conversations were always limited to what she would have for breakfast, when would she get back home from college and when will her exams start? If they ever had to show their displeasure regarding something, it would always be her lack of interest in studies. She kept herself locked in her room for hours after getting back home from college. None of her friends called, nor did she ever go with them for casual outings. The last time she went out with friends was for a school picnic three years ago. She did not have very good memories of that day either.
Malini was obsessed with flicking things that belonged to others. She did not do it to gain something out of it, nor did she do it because she liked doing it. She just could not resist herself from picking things up when no one was watching. Most of the times she did not even need them. Initially she never understood that she was stealing but the moment she got caught doing so when she was with her classmates in the picnic, she realised that something was wrong with it. She kept telling herself again and again that she would not do it ever but the moment she saw something lying astray somewhere, she could not control herself.
She wanted to confide in someone but never could due to the fear of being humiliated. She was not a thief but she was just addicted to give into this impulse.
This is not something unusual and rare. This act is a psychological disorder which starts during adolescence and if not treated properly, metamorphoses into a serious illness. ‘Kleptomania’ is a disorder which mushrooms out of depression and anxiety. Kleptomaniacs are not thieves; they are just addicted to flicking things which are of very less importance. The case mentioned above is not unusual or crazy, neither does it in anyway indicate that the person is affected with some disease. There are many people like Malini who suffer from it but are only not sure of the roots. They fear confiding in others for the fear of being treated as outcasts. Many people do not understand this state and very conveniently call those people affected with kleptomania, thieves.
It has to be understood that people suffering from kleptomania are not thieves, who steal to appease a monetary urge. They often pick all those things which are of very less value.
Psychologists opine that kleptomania has a cure once it is recognised. Counselling helps them to a large extent as this disorder springs out of depression, anxiety and isolation. The moment they are treated with little amount of empathy, it works like magic on them. Sometimes financial condition or unfulfilled desires end into leading one to being a kleptomaniac.
If you come across someone who has this urge of flicking things given the slightest opportunity, do not treat him badly. That person might not even know why he or she is doing it. Befriending the person and understanding his problem would not only come as great help but also act as a cure.