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Suzanne, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 919
Experience:  LCSW, RN. Mental Health, Relationship & Parenting issues.EMDR, Hypnosis.
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What can I do to help my nearly 18 year old daughter who

Resolved Question:

What can I do to help my nearly 18 year old daughter who repeatedly lies, is not trustworthy, takes things that don't belong to her, is lazy and unmotivated
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Suzanne replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for bringing your question to JustAnswer.

Is this behavior a new development or a continuation of behavior that's been going on for years?

-Could you explain your situation a little more?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
This is something that has been evident since her early teens at least and includes one shop lifting incident that we know about because the police were involved. She continually /has/ always has done, takes personal items from her two older sisters without permission. If she asked often the answer is and would be yes but then she thinks that it means she can use that item repeatedly on future occasions, or that is what she says when she is caught. If she wants it she takes it, much to the frustration and sometimes anger of other members of her family. It appears she thinks that she will take it and suffer the consequences later as it is too late then, she's used, taken whatever she wanted and it's too late to do anything about it. It appears to be escalating, hence the need for professional advice! She recently lied twice about where she was going and staying. This is part due to a very dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship she has had on and off with a boyfriend, he himself has extreme emotional problems including I suspect depression. Every time they break up because of his unrealistic behavior towards her and being able to cope with her having a life outside of him, she says that's it but inevitably they get back together or "just talk" which leads to being together for a short while only to go through it all again. So recently she has said she's not seeing him anymore. But for obvious reasons we don't believe her. This has been one of the reasons for lying recently, but I have said to be honest, it's her decision but we have been through it so many times before and she knows it's not going to work and is unhealthy, so she doesn't need to lie but obviously she can't tell me because she knows I won't be happy, it's so futile. Every time I think she's over it and moving on, she let's him back in for a short time, then says it's over for good. For good never seems to be the case!
Expert:  Suzanne replied 5 years ago.

It sounds like it's time to get a neutral third party involved. Between the stealing and the unhealthy relationship, it's clear she would benefit from some counseling. Girls of that age rarely respond well to what their mothers say, but when a stranger says virtually the same thing, they'll listen.

As noted on the NASP website "

The single largest psychological factor found in approximately 1/3 of
shoplifters studied is "depression". This helps to explain why so many
individuals steal from stores on their birthday and/or around holiday times.

The more intense form of shoplifting is classified in the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as an "Impulse Disorder" known
as Kleptomania. For this classification, the patient must meet the following
five criteria to justify this diagnosis.

  1. Recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal objects that are not needed
    for personal use or their monetary value.
  2. Increasing sense of tension immediately before committing the theft.
  3. Pleasure or relief at the time of committing the theft.
  4. Stealing is not committed to express anger or vengeance and is not in
    response to a delusion or hallucination.
  5. The stealing is not better accounted for by Conduct Disorder, a Manic
    Episode, or Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Getting her in to see a therapist, particularly one who specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, would be the most productive help you could give her. She will be evaluated to see if she meets the criteria for kleptomania, and if she does, a combination of therapy and meds could make a big difference. Here are the treatments suggested by the Mayo Clinic:

Treatment of kleptomania typically involves medications and psychotherapy, perhaps along with self-help groups. However, there's no standard kleptomania treatment, and researchers are still trying to understand what may work best. You may have to try several types of kleptomania treatment to find something that works well for your situation.

There's little solid scientific research about using psychiatric medications to treat kleptomania. However, certain medications may be helpful. Which medication is best for you depends on your overall situation and other conditions you may have, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. You may benefit from taking a combination of medications. Medications to consider include:

  • Antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used to treat kleptomania. These include fluoxetine (Prozac, Prozac Weekly), paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR), fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR) and others.
  • Mood stabilizers. These medications are meant to even out your mood so that you don't have rapid or uneven changes that may trigger urges to steal. One mood stabilizer used to treat kleptomania is lithium (Lithobid).
  • Anti-seizure medications. Although originally intended for seizure disorders, these medications have shown benefits in certain mental health disorders, possibly including kleptomania. Examples include topiramate (Topamax) and valproic acid (Depakene, Stavzor).
  • Addiction medications. Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol), known technically as an opioid antagonist, blocks the part of your brain that feels pleasure with certain addictive behaviors. It may reduce the urges and pleasure associated with stealing.

You may have to try several different medications or combinations of medications to see what works best for you with the fewest side effects. Keep in mind that it may take several weeks to notice full benefits. Talk to your doctor or mental health provider if you're bothered by side effects. Under his or her guidance, you may be able to switch medications or change your dosage. Many side effects eventually go away.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has become the psychotherapy of choice for kleptomania. In general, cognitive behavioral therapy helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. Cognitive behavioral therapy may include these techniques to help you overcome kleptomania urges:

  • Covert sensitization, in which you picture yourself stealing and then facing negative consequences, such as being caught
  • Aversion therapy, in which you practice mildly painful techniques, such as holding your breath until you become uncomfortable, when you get an urge to steal
  • Systematic desensitization, in which you practice relaxation techniques and picture yourself controlling urges to steal

Other forms of therapy, such as psychodynamic therapy, or family therapy also may be helpful.

Here's a link to a directory of therapists that you can search by area and specialty:

Teens do better when they have someone to confide in, and as you noted, she knows how you feel about her relationship situation and the lying. Setting her up with a seasoned, experienced therapist would be the best way to get her back on track.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
i dont feel that the problem is solely stealing, as i am not aware of any other incidents. (it frightened the life out of her having the police involved) and it was several years ago. now its more the dishonesty and disrespect for others feelings and property. She seems to have little regard for house rules and family feelings about how her actions cause so much angst and frustration.
Expert:  Suzanne replied 5 years ago.

She has to be getting something out of this behavior, or she wouldn't continue causing so much upset in the family with her actions. Even if the stealing is not the main issue, I would still recommend Cognitive therapy as it will teach her to review and assess her own thoughts before taking action.

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