Kleptomania Symptoms, Causes, Test, Treatment

Kleptomania – Causes, Symptoms, Test, Treatment

Mental illnesses take many forms and have varying effects on the afflicted and those around them. Kleptomania disorder is one such mental illness that is characterized by persistent urges to steal. Kleptomania can cause a lot of emotional pain to the person who suffers from this. This emotional pain may affect their loved ones when they get caught up in the effects of kleptomania.

Stealing often becomes an obsession even when people know they might get caught. It is estimated that 6 out of every 1000 people suffer from kleptomania.

This disorder is believed to account for over 5% of all shoplifting losses. Women are at higher risk to have kleptomania than men. Other kleptomania statistics to help you understand the extent and spread of this disorder may be found online.

What is Kleptomania Disorder?

Kleptomania disorder is a recurrent inability to refrain from the urge to steal. The stolen items in kleptomania may be of no monetary value or personal use to the kleptomaniac. Sometimes, the theft is in anticipation of losses. Kleptomania is classified as an impulse control disorder in psychiatry. Main characteristics of kleptomania disorder are problems with behavioural issues and lack of emotional self-control.

Whom Does Kleptomania Affect?

Anyone can be affected by kleptomania, including those who do not suffer from the disorder. It is still uncertain what leads to kleptomania. Those whose items are stolen by a kleptomaniac may not understand and fail to cope with the feeling of lose that one gets upon realizing that a possession has been pilfered.

Kleptomania Symptoms

Symptoms that a person is a kleptomaniac are the inability to resist powerful urges to steal things that they do not need. Increased tension, arousal or anxiety may be felt in the lead up to the theft. After a kleptomaniac has stolen something, they feel pleasurable and relieved. A lot of gratification is felt too.

Other Symptoms of Kleptomania Are

  • Feeling terrible guilt, self loathing and remorse after the kleptomaniac theft
  • Feeling shameful and afraid of arrest after stealing
  • Repetitive strong urges putting you in a cycle of kleptomania

Most kleptomaniacs steal in public spaces. Stores and supermarkets are a favourite target for them. Theft from friends often occurs only in large gatherings such as parties. It must be kept in mind that kleptomaniacs often steal items that hold no true value for them.

Kleptomania Causes

The exact cause of kleptomania remains unknown. Medical practitioners have advanced theories that center around changes in the brain as being a contributing factor to kleptomania. Research continues into the causes of kleptomania.

Currently, Kleptomania is linked to problems with serotonin that is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter. Serotonin helps in the regulation of moods and emotions. Low serotonin levels are often observed in persons prone to impulsive behaviours such as kleptomania.

Another possible cause of kleptomania is Dopamine. Once a person steals once, they may get a dopamine rush that causes pleasurable feelings. Repeatedly seeking this ‘Rewarding Feeling’ over and over via stealing may lead to kleptomania.

Urges in our brains are regulated by an Opioid system in the brain. A system imbalance leaves you with a lot of difficulty in resisting urges.

Kleptomania Test

The commonly used test to diagnose kleptomania is in the form of a guide. The guide helps psychiatrists identify repeated inability to resist stealing of non-essential items. The guide also helps identify escalation in the sense of pressure felt just before a kleptomaniac theft.

You may take kleptomania self test online when you feel you might have the manic disorder. Such a test is however not conclusive and the results must be confirmed by a medical practitioner – preferably a psychiatrist.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Kleptomaniac is further diagnosed by identification of satisfaction, relief or fulfilment at the point of theft. For a theft to qualify as a kleptomaniac, it is not executed to convey revenge or antagonism. It is also not in reaction to a fantasy or delusion. Kleptomaniac theft must not be accounted for by any other behaviour disorder, antisocial personality disorder or manic episode.

Kleptomania Prevention and Treatment

A diverse range of treatment regimens and therapeutic approaches are applied by psychologists to treat Kleptomania. There is no definitive way to prevent the rise of kleptomania n an individual. Therapeutic approaches used in treatment include psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches, behavioural and cognitive interventions, and drug treatments.

The attendant psychologist comes up with a kleptomania treatment plan that they will explain to the person suffering kleptomania. Make sure to follow this treatment plan closely since it represents your safest route to managing the disorder.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are one type of drug used in the treatment of kleptomania. The other type is Opioid Receptor Antagonists, most famously Naltrexone. When you or a loved one is seen to exhibit the symptoms of kleptomania, visit a psychiatrist for professional help. It helps to get therapy voluntarily instead of waiting until the kleptomaniac gets caught and is subjected to the legal implications of their disorder.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Bharti Talreja (MBBS, DPM, FAGE, MIPS)She is a Psychiatrist practising in Indore, India.