Kleptomania is a complex impulse control disorder. It is an inability to resist the urge of stealing. It is characterized by problems with emotional or behavioral self-control. People with impulse control disorder have difficulty in resisting the temptation to steal things which are generally not required or have a very less value. It is a psychological condition and it can be treated with medications or psychotherapy. Many people live in secret shame due to fear from mental health treatment.

The urge to steal may occur with greater or lesser intensities over the course of time. They never use the stolen items; sometimes they donate or return them to the same place. People with kleptomania may have some other coexisting mental disorders such as social phobia, major depression, panic attacks, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, substance abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder .The episodes of kleptomania occur spontaneously. It does not happen with planning and with help from another person. They steal from public places, such as stores and supermarkets or at friend’s parties. Kleptomania is more common in females than males.

Causes of Kleptomania

The causes of kleptomania are unknown. It might be linked with neurotransmission in brain. Low levels of serotonin in brain leads to impulsive disorders. Serotonin regulates moods and emotions and it might also be related to addictive disorders. Kleptomania can also coexist in conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosa, and clinical depression.

Symptoms of Kleptomania

  • Repetition of stealing
  • Inability to resist stealing
  • Increased tension and anxiety leading to theft
  • Pleasure and relief or gratification while stealing
  • Feeling shame due to fear of arrest after the theft
  • Feeling terrible guilt, remorse, and self-loathing

Complications of Kleptomania

Kleptomania is associated with some complications such as compulsive gambling, arrest and imprisonment for theft, alcohol and substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Diagnosis of Kleptomania

Diagnosis of kleptomania is usually difficult as the patients feel shy to seek medical help for this complaint. It is usually diagnosed when the patients seek treatment for other conditions such as depression or bulimia.

The diagnosis involves both physical and psychological evaluation. In physical evaluation the assessment of underlying conditions that are lead to kleptomania are identified. To diagnose the condition, the doctors may ask questions such as

  • How the impulses make feel
  • The situations that trigger to steal

Initial psychological evaluations may reveal history of poor parenting, relationship conflicts that lead to stress. Psychological experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5, to diagnose mental conditions. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Treatment for Kleptomania

The treatment for kleptomania involves medications and psychotherapy. There is no standard treatment for kleptomania. Researchers are still trying to understand best treatment method. Counseling in a group or one-on-one setting is useful. The treatment is aimed at dealing with underlying psychological problems that are contributing to kleptomania. The treatment also include behavior therapy, traditional psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, reality therapy, and medication. In cognitive behavioral therapy, some techniques such as covert sensitization, aversion therapy, and systematic desensitization are used.

Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) could be effective in the treatment of kleptomania as it is effective in obsessive-compulsive disorders. Some medications that are used in the treatment of kleptomania are fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, sertraline, lithium, trazodone and Valproate.