What is kleptomania?
Kleptomania is a serious mental disorder that can cause much emotional pain to you and your loved ones if not treated. Kleptomania is an disorder where you feel compelled to steal things, even if you don’t actually need those items. People with this condition often steal objects are usually of small value.
How common is kleptomania?
Kleptomania is rare overall, but more common in females than in males. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of kleptomania?
The common symptoms of kleptomania are:
- 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.
People with kleptomania typically exhibit these features or characteristics:
- People with kleptomania steal because the urge is so powerful that they can’t resist it. They don’t steal for personal gain or as a result of a dare.
- The urge often occurs spontaneously, without planning and without help or collaboration from another person.
- The stolen items often have no value and the person can afford to buy them. Even after they stole the items, they might not even use it.
- Urges to steal may come and go or may occur with greater or lesser intensity over the course of time.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have those symptoms or features that are listed above, you should seek medical advice. Getting treatment may help you gain control over your kleptomania.
Many people who may have kleptomania don’t want to seek treatment because they’re afraid they’ll be arrested or jailed. However, a mental health provider typically doesn’t report your thefts to authorities.
It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes kleptomania?
The cause of kleptomania isn’t known. As with many mental disorder, several theories suggest that changes in the brain may be at the root of kleptomania. Kleptomania often begins during the teen years or in young adulthood, but in rare cases it begins in later adulthood.
What increases my risk for kleptomania?
There are many risk factors for kleptomania, such as:
- Family history. Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with mental disorder, or a substance or alcohol use problem may increase your risk of kleptomania.
- Being female. About two-thirds of people with known kleptomania are women.
- Having another mental illness such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, an eating disorder, substance use disorder or a personality disorder.
- Head trauma or brain injuries.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is kleptomania diagnosed?
This condition is diagnosed by an physical and psychological exam. The physical exam is to determine if there is any condition that triggers kleptomania. The psychological exam might include checking for behaviors that indicate kleptomania. These criteria are stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. DSM-5 criteria for kleptomania include:
- You have a recurrent inability to resist urges to steal objects that aren’t needed for personal use or monetary value.
- You feel increasing tension immediately before committing the theft.
- You have feelings of pleasure, relief or gratification during the act of stealing.
- The theft isn’t committed as a way to exact revenge or to express anger and isn’t done while hallucinating or delusional.
- The stealing isn’t related to a conduct disorder, a manic episode of bipolar disorder or antisocial personality disorder.
How is kleptomania treated?
The treatment for kleptomania includes medications and psychotherapy. Depending on the severity of your conditions. 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 treatment to find something that works well for you.
At this moment, there is no FDA-approved medication for kleptomania. Some doctors might recommend antidepressant, specifically a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to treat this kleptomania. Therapy treatments include:
- 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.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage kleptomania?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with kleptomania:
- Stick to your treatment plan.Take medications as directed and attend scheduled therapy sessions.
- Educate yourself.Learn about kleptomania so that you can better understand risk factors, treatments and triggering events.
- Discover what drives you.Identify situations, thoughts and feelings that may trigger urges to steal so you can take steps to manage them.
- Get treatment for substance abuse or other mental health problems.
- Find healthy outlets.Explore healthy ways to re-channel your urges to steal or shoplift through exercise and recreational activities.
- Learn relaxation and stress management.Try such stress-reduction techniques as meditation, yoga or tai chi.
- Stay focused on your goal.
Because the cause of kleptomania isn’t clear, it’s not yet known how to prevent it with any certainty. Getting treatment as soon as compulsive stealing begins may help prevent kleptomania from becoming worse and prevent some of the negative consequences.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: July 25, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019
Kleptomania. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kleptomania/basics/definition/con-20033010. Accessed July 22, 2016.
Kleptomania. https://www.drugs.com/mcd/kleptomania. Accessed July 22, 2016.