My 19 year old daughter has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has been taking antipsychotic meds for several months. She has a history of stealing from family members and we were told that bipolars do not general steal. She steals whatever she can get her hands on, money, credit cards, checks, her sisters clothes, and never shows remorse. We live in a home where everything is behind lock and key. It is difficult to trust her, she seems to show pleasure in having had the chance to go out and shop until she gets caught and we don't know how to help her. Too young to be put out of the house, but she makes life pure misery. The psychiatrist doesn"t understand where the stealing comes from, but we are afraid she could ruin us financially if we are not extremely prudent. Her sisters who are 21 and 22 are so fed up that they are planning on moving out, can't say I blame them, she has been stealing from us since she is about 11-12 years old.
What a difficult situation. I must say I've never come across anything that says someone with bipolar can't be a kleptomaniac, in fact I believe that mood disorders are regarded as something of a risk factor. I knew of one individual with bipolar who does just this but it tends to be wrapped up in shopping sprees during mania when money is spent as well. The fact is kleptomania isn't a common event anyway so there isn't a great deal of comparison that can be made.
True kleptomania (compulsive stealing) isn't really understood. Some lines of evidence point to an association between serotonin and kleptomania but it is too sketchy to really be confident about this as the cause.
I'm not sure what levels of assessment may have been carried out so far? For example, do you know what triggers these events? Are there any other compulsions you are aware of? and so on.
There is a real issue here of course about where all this could lead in terms of breaking the law and possible sanctions. From what information you've supplied I would certainly say your daughter needs individual psychotherapy and perhaps help from an appropriate support group.
Thank you for your reply. She steals then goes shopping, I guess it would be a manic phase where she needs to go out and shop and will do anything and everything to get her hands on the money. She was caught several times stealing in stores, she has stolen money from friends while visiting us and friends while we were visiting them, total disregard for the person. However, I contacted a therapist who told me that probably once she is on the right dose of medication (she takes Seroquel 100mg) it might be a wake up call for her when she realizes what she has been doing in her "manic" phases, and that until she has been "stabilized" therapy probably wouldn't do much good. That was not what I was hoping to hear. I read someone who had blogged on this site that he has bipolar disease from an accident, she had the same thing happen to her, after a car accident where she blacked out, she was never the same. She was 14 when it happened. She was stealing from her father for years before that. She seems to be in a happier than usual mood for a few days, then we find out she got ahold of a credit card or something we were not vigilant enough about, and then we realize why she was in that happy state. She gets caught, goes back into her deep dark state and pretty much stays there. I know that therapy would help but at 19 years old, we are glad she just takes the medication, even though it has put so much weight on her.