Some people think of shoplifting as simply risky behavior in teenagers or as some kind of game, and others are drawn to the stealthy excitement. Trying to stop shoplifting can be difficult without some support, though, because it can quickly become a habit and then an addiction. Shoplifting addicts don’t have the beer breath of an alcoholic or the needle marks of a heroin addict, but it is a serious addiction. Like most addictions, shoplifting has consequences, and it usually represents an attempt by the individual to deal with mental pain.
Often this pain in adulthood comes from being wounded in childhood, and it leads to a high probability of relationship problems and addictive/compulsive behavior. It is a combination of immature thinking, feeling, and behaving. The shoplifting addict has an immature relationship with the world, so that the individual acts-out through stealing from “big corporations.” But there’s more to it: A shoplifting addict is a person who compulsively steals not out of political desire or economic need or even because they really want the items. Often the desire to steal stems from a need to reduce anxiety. Many recovering addicts say they get stimulation, satisfaction and release during the actual act of stealing. This high is caused when the pleasure center of the brain is stimulated. When stressed or feeling down, the addict may try counteracting anxiety through stealing; the similarities to alcohol and drug addiction are hard to ignore.
Many people become addicted to shoplifting. The condition does not discriminate by race, gender, culture or creed, although studies have found young women seem to suffer most commonly from these addictive behaviors. And when individuals try to stop stealing on their own, their addictive behavior often shifts to other addictive tendencies, especially eating disorders and drug addiction. It is for this reason that an individual’s best chance at achieving freedom from addictive/compulsive behavior is to get proper treatment.
How We Heal
At Northbound, psychotherapeutic treatment of shoplifting addiction frequently involves one-on-one time with a therapist, where the client can get in touch with the inner tension that urges her to steal. One of the ways a therapist can assist is by helping the client with getting in touch with her psychological pain. This internal effort makes it much easier for the addict to find a healthier way of dealing with anxiety, and she’ll be more likely to be ration in how she handles her problems.
Another way Northbound helps shoplifting addicts free themselves is by directing clients to the appropriate 12-Step program. This program will be integrated by Northbound’s highly experienced staff to create an individual treatment plan in conjunction with the individual therapist. This treatment approach has been shown in research to be more effective than traditional recovery methods for dealing with shoplifting addiction.
By customizing a unique treatment program to include a combination of cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic/process-oriented group therapies, we give the client the absolute best chance at beating their compulsion. Skills imparted include dealing with grief and loss and co-dependency. We teach life-skills, how to deal with relationship difficulties, how to avoid relapse, and how to develop emotional pathways. Because Northbound is addressing both the shoplifting addiction and any other issues, it is unlikely that the client will sublimate the stealing compulsion into another harmful behavior.
Recovery is an ongoing process. Northbound has developed immersive treatment programs to restore mental health and free clients from compulsive behaviors. Northbound’s contracted psychiatrists and staff psychotherapists treat clients in a residential and outpatient setting.