What is Kleptomania?
Kleptomania is an impulse control mental disorder defined by the uncontrollable need to steal. The need to steal is not for monetary or personal use. Most kleptomaniacs steal for the feelings of pleasure, gratification, or release at the time of stealing. Kleptomaniacs do feel guilt or remorse, unlike shoplifters, and may secretly return the items. The stealing is done independently and without premeditation and without the collaboration of others.
Diagnosis of Kleptomania:
According to the DSM-IV-TR, the five diagnostic criteria for kleptomania are:
- Repeated theft of objects unnecessary for personal use or monetary value
- Increasing tension immediately before theft
- Pleasure or release upon committing the theft
- Theft unmotivated by anger or vengeance, nor is it caused by a hallucination or delusion
- Behavior is not better accounted for by manic episode, conduct disorder, or antisocial personality disorder
Comorbid Mental Health Disorders:
Causes of Kleptomania:
Currently, there are no known causes for kleptomania. Research has suggested that it is linked to a chemical imbalance of serotonin in the brain. Kleptomania has also been shown to be related to other addictive or obsessive compulsive disorders.
Demographics for Kleptomania:
Roughly 0.6% of the population may have kleptomania. Kleptomania is more common among females. There is a particularly high correlation between kleptomania and bulimia.
Symptoms of Kleptomania:
Symptoms of kleptomania include:
- Powerful urges to steal items that you don't need
- Feeling increased tension leading up to the theft
- Feeling pleasure or gratification while stealing
- Feeling terrible guilt or shame after the theft
This cycle can repeat itself until the person seeks medical treatment. Most instances of stealing are spontaneous, but an episode can be brought on by stressful events.
Treatment for Kleptomania:
Most people who suffer from kleptomania do not seek treatment for fear of humiliation or embarrassment. A combination of medications and therapy may help those suffering from kleptomania.
Treatment may include medications such as:
- Mood stabilizers
- Anti-seizure medications
- Opioid antagonist
Cognitive behavioral therapy has, in general, become a therapist’s choice for treating kleptomania. This type of therapy helps the patient to identify unhealthy thoughts and replace them with healthy ones. Some techniques used in cognitive behavioral therapy 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 have an urge to steal.
Systematic desensitization, in which you practice relaxation techniques and picture yourself controlling urges to steal.
Complications of Kleptomania:
Complications that kleptomania may cause or be associated with include:
- Compulsive gambling or shopping
National Association for Shoplifting Association: a self-help program for shoplifters and how to prevent shoplifting.
Kleptomaniacs Anonymous: listings of support groups by state, along with other resources for kleptomania
American Psychological Association provides a wealth of information on all sorts of mental health disorders, along with resources for finding local therapists and mental health professionals.