Yuffie’s stealing is an inside joke. But I think she has a legitimate and serious mental health disorder. I’m going to use actual evidence from the game to make the case.
First, let’s look at an overview of Kleptomania from the MayoClinic:
Kleptomania is a type of impulse control disorder — a disorder that’s characterized by problems with emotional or behavioral self-control. If you have an impulse control disorder, you have difficulty resisting the temptation or drive to perform an act that’s excessive or harmful to you or someone else.
While her job class is officially a ninja, she also has thieving abilities. It’s a callback to the first Final Fantasy, whereas the Thief can upgrade his job class to Ninja. Originally conceived as a bounty hunter and ex-SOLDIER, maybe as a hybrid of Ninja/Thief, but it never materialized.
According to the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega, in earlier versions of Final Fantasy VII, Yuffie and Wutai as a whole were very different from the finished product. Yuffie was envisioned as a 25-year-old bounty hunter seeking Cloud and Sephiroth, and she, in turn, had a bounty on her head. Posters showing her stats would be found around the world, and Yuffie’s stats, abilities, and level would change when the party acquired her depending on which poster was inspected last. She was also intended to be an ex-SOLDIER.
Her first chronological appearence in the series is marked by this trait:
Yuffie steals the information from her father and sends Zack emails about rare treasure, intending to ambush him at the end of each mission and either steal from him, or seize the treasure for herself. She fails on both counts when Zack either does not fall for her ruses, or the treasure she finds is not up to her standards. As Yuffie continues to taunt Zack through emails the locations she leads him to become more dangerous, Yuffie getting her information from an anti-Shinra group based in Wutai. On the final mission, Yuffie steals Zack’s Bahamut Fury Materia and escapes. She mails it back to him a few days later, not understanding how to use it.
This is a recurring joke in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Yuffie sends Zack spam email to lure him into fighting off monsters that guard treasure. After Zack wins the battle, Yuffie steals the treasure. It’s formulaic, but each time she manages to steal something else. First, it was information from her father that lead to Zack’s email:
At some time after the war, Godo is given a list of SOLDIER email addresses and locations of rare treasure by an unidentified blond man (speculated to be Lazard Deusericus or Rufus Shinra in the Crisis Core Complete Guide), but Godo does nothing with the information.
Then the treasure.
Yuffie steals everything she gets, and sometimes for the sake of stealing.
Yuffie steals the party’s Materia when they enter Wutai, and they must chase her and save her from Don Corneo before she returns them.
Apparently, she’s trying to use the Materia to take back and rebuild Wutai.
Godo: I knew you were looking for Materia for the good of Wutai.
But it might be that she actually uses this reason as a cover for her behavior.
In Final Fantasy VII, she claims she wants Materia because Shinra banned it in Wutai and she wants to use it to restore Wutai’s glory. However, her obsession is intact in her appearances before and after the game, having found various other reasons to hunt the magical baubles.
Does she have any of the symptoms? According to the MayoClinic, Kleptomania symptoms may include:
- Inability to resist powerful urges to steal items that you don’t need
- Feeling increased tension, anxiety or arousal leading up to the theft
- Feeling pleasure, relief or gratification while stealing
- Feeling terrible guilt, remorse, self-loathing, shame or fear of arrest after the theft
- Return of the urges and a repetition of the kleptomania cycle
Yuffie does express an inability to resist powerful urges to steal items. I’m sure she feels tension, anxiety or arousal lying while thieving. And she laughs at the thought of stealing, signifying pleasure, relief or gratification. Does she feel guilty? Probably not. But there might be hope for Yuffie:
Although there’s no cure for kleptomania, treatment with medication or talk therapy (psychotherapy) may help to end the cycle of compulsive stealing.