What The Wild Things Are

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Understandings of Self, Awareness, and Mental Health in an Ever-Changing World
by Samantha Smithstein, Psy.D.


Lindsay Lohan, fresh out of three months of rehabilitation for her drug and alcohol addiction, is now potentially facing charges of Felony Grand Theft for stealing an expensive necklace from a Los Angeles jewelry store. 

In California, the difference between felony and misdemeanor theft is the monetary value of the item(s) stolen.  If it is over $950, it is a felony, and Lohan allegedly stole a very expensive necklace.

Lohan doesn't need to steal.  She could have afforded the necklace but even if she couldn't have, she certainly didn't need the necklace to survive.  So why did she steal it?

There are a multitude of answers as to why she, or anyone else, might steal.  Sometimes people steal because they have little regard for other people or for the law.  But many people who steal are otherwise law-abiding citizens and they themselves don't really have the answer as to why they steal.  This is because they are afflicted with a disorder – compulsive stealing or kleptomania - and have a great deal of difficulty gaining control over their stealing behavior, much in the way an alcoholic, compulsive gambler, overeater, or drug addict has difficulty controlling theirs.

Of course, most of us can only guess as to what is going on with Lindsay Lohan since we don't know her personally.  It could be that taking the necklace (if she did take it) was the only time that she has ever stolen anything.  It could be that she, like other addicts, stole because she is out of control and acting in her addiction even if she isn't still using drugsBut those of us working in the field of addictive and compulsive behaviors are finding more and more frequently that often people tend to suffer from a "cluster" of addictions rather than a single one.  In other words, someone may seek treatment for an eating disorder and uncover a compulsive stealing disorder.  Or an individual might seek treatment for sexual compulsivity and eventually reveal that they are also abusing drugs and alcohol.  Sometimes they may seek treatment for one and the other may not ever be revealed to the therapist, because of deep shame or fear.  This is especially true of compulsive stealing; people can go for years without a therapist or anyone in their life knowing they can't stop themselves from stealing.


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