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Ask Doctor Blake Your Own Question
Doctor Blake
Doctor Blake, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 146
Experience:  Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure
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I have a 21 year old son that has been stealing my things (jewelry,

Customer Question

I have a 21 year old son that has been stealing my things (jewelry, coins etc.) what should I do?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Doctor Blake replied 5 years ago.

Doctor Blake :

Good afternoon and thanks for writing to JA.

Doctor Blake :

I regret that I have a few more questions for you:

Doctor Blake :

1. Has your son stolen from you in the past? Is this new behavior?

Doctor Blake :

2. To your knowledge, does your son abuse drugs or alcohol?

Doctor Blake :

3. Has you son changed his behavior significantly in the recent past? Has he dropped out of school or lost a job?

Doctor Blake :

Thanks. If you could provide more information this would be helpful.

Customer:

He has stolen things even from the store since he was 7-8. we even took him to the police station. Then about a month ago I noticed a gold charm bracelet was gone. He has moved out on his own and I wondered if he needed the money. I confronted him, but he denied it. He has just lost his job, started smoking and is hanging out at a coffee shop. He just last week, moved back home and today I noticed some more of my jewelry was missing.

Customer:

To my knowledge he doesn't do drugs or alcohol

Doctor Blake :

Thanks for the reply.

Doctor Blake :

A couple more quick questions...

Doctor Blake :

have you noticed any change in health: sleeping behavior, weight, appearance?

Doctor Blake :

has he been incarcerated for theft in the past or avoided jail?

Customer:

No he is quite healthy. sleeps normal hours. helps around the house. has never gone to jail

Doctor Blake :

has he been treated for any mental illness that you're aware of? What was the diagnosis? What was the treatment?

Customer:

He has seen a doctor for depression and ADD since he was in the third grade, about 8 years old. He is on Xanax (SP)

Doctor Blake :

Well... I will say that this is quite unusual. My initial thought was that he might have a substance abuse problem.

Doctor Blake :

I'm glad to hear that this is likely not the case.

Customer:

Well, at least let's hope not

Doctor Blake :

There is a possibility that your son has an underlying compulsion to steal or do other "sneaky things."

Doctor Blake :

This could be an underlying disorder (such as OCD) or a more specific compulsion "kleptomania" to swipe stuff he doesn't really need.

Customer:

Is there something that I can say to him that will get him to admit that he is stealing? He does seem to lie quite a bit too

Doctor Blake :

If someone is going to lie, there's little we can do to get the truth...

Customer:

I'm pretty sure it's not OCD. He is very messy. Doesn't take care of his room, car etc.

Doctor Blake :

In some cases, the "tough love" approach (e.g., calling the police) will help establish boundaries and take care of the problem.

Customer:

We have thought of that, but the evidence is gone. I have searched his room, his car everything, at the stuff is gone. How could we prove he took it?

Doctor Blake :

Careful about that perception of OCD! (Lots of people have it...) Some of the worst OCDs I've known have also had the messiest rooms! (Most OCDs aren't "universally" OCD... more likely very specific areas of life... often that serves no functional purpose.)

Doctor Blake :

The matter of your property, to be honest, is more a legal matter. You *may* need to contact the police. At least hide your valuables until you get to the bottom of this.

Customer:

How can you know if it is OCD?

Doctor Blake :

But the matter of your son's behavior persists and may warrant a diagnostic work up with a psychologist. It's both unprofessional and unethical to diagnose, third-party, over the internet...

Customer:

I agree, thank you.

Doctor Blake :

...but I *do* have questions about possible compulsive behavior, impulse-control issues, possible (but unlikely) substance abuse...

Doctor Blake :

...there may be other matters that I (and you) couldn't know... but could perhaps be uncovered during a diagnostic interview (compulsive gambling? other financial obligations that you're unaware of? etc?)

Doctor Blake :

In sum, I would agree with your instincts that your son is asking for help.

Doctor Blake :

One approach is the police and legal processes.

Doctor Blake :

Another is going to a psychologist to get to the bottom of this (which could be a requirement for his continuing to live under your roof... this is, afterall, YOUR home).

Doctor Blake :

A third - is a combination of both.

Customer:

Can you suggest one in Salt Lake City?

Doctor Blake :

You deserve to protect yourself as well as your son. (Remember what the airline stewards say... "in the event of an emergency, put the Oxygen mask on yourself first before helping your child.")

Doctor Blake :

I'm sorry that I cannot suggest a specific professional in SLC... but I would recommend you begin with your Children's Hospital. In all likelihood, they have an ADOLESCENT MEDICINE program that might recommend a good professional to work with someone of your son's age.

Customer:

Thank you.

Doctor Blake and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you