Kleptomania is the inability to resist impulses to steal. The things that are stolen are not needed for personal use. They are also not taken for their monetary value. This is a rare condition.
The exact cause of kleptomania is not known. Chemical imbalances in the brain may play a role.
Psychological disorders are sometimes the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. The frontal lobe of the brain is thought to provide impulse control.
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Symptoms of kleptomania include
of the following: A repeated inability to resist impulses to steal things that are not of personal valueA feeling of relief, joy, and/or pleasure when stealing thingsFeeling of guilt or remorse after the eventThefts that are not committed out of anger, or for revenge or personal gainLack of a better explanation for the theft, such as another psychological disorder
Kleptomania is different from shoplifting or ordinary theft, which is: DeliberateMotivated by the stolen item's usefulness or monetary valueThe result of a dare, an act of rebellion, or a rite of passage
A psychiatrist or psychologist will diagnose kleptomania when: All of the symptoms of kleptomania are presentThere is no other, better explanation for repeated theftsKleptomania is not an excuse for shoplifting or ordinary theft
Treatment may involve treating an underlying disease. Other treatments include:
or therapy may be in a group or one-to-one setting. It is usually aimed at dealing with underlying psychological problems that may be contributing to kleptomania. It may also include:
Cognitive behavioral therapyBehavior modification therapyFamily therapy
Stress reduction techniques, including medication, yoga, or tai chi, may also be taught in therapy.
Drugs used for treatment include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, medications to treat drug addiction, and medications to treat seizure disorders.
There are no current guidelines to prevent kleptomania because the cause is not known.
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The Columbia Encyclopedia.
6th ed. New York, NY: Columbia University Press; 2001.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
4th ed. American Psychiatric Association; 1994.
Kuzma JM, Black DW. Compulsive disorders.
Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2004 Feb;6(1):58-65.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
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