Kleptomania

Definition

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.

Causes

The exact cause of kleptomania is not known. Chemical imbalances in the brain may play a role.
Frontal Lobe
Frontal lobe
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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Risk Factors

Kleptomania often occurs with other psychological disorders. These include:Other risk factors include:
  • Having a family history of the condition
  • Having a brain injury
Kleptomania appears to be more common in females than in males. There are no other known risk factors.

Symptoms

Symptoms of kleptomania include all of the following:
  • A repeated inability to resist impulses to steal things that are not of personal value
  • A feeling of relief, joy, and/or pleasure when stealing things
  • Feeling of guilt or remorse after the event
  • Thefts that are not committed out of anger or revenge
  • Lack of a better explanation for the theft, such as another psychological disorder

Diagnosis

Kleptomania is different from shoplifting or ordinary theft, which is:
  • Deliberate
  • Motivated by the stolen item's usefulness or monetary value
  • The 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 present
  • There is no other, better explanation for repeated thefts
  • Kleptomania is not an excuse for shoplifting or ordinary theft

Treatment

Treatment may involve treating an underlying disease. Other treatments include:

Counseling or Therapy

Counseling 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 therapy
  • Behavior modification therapy
  • Family therapy
Stress reduction techniques, including medication, yoga, or tai chi, may also be taught in therapy.

Medications

Drugs used for treatment include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, medications to treat drug addiction, and medications to treat seizure disorders.

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing kleptomania. The exact cause is not known.

RESOURCES

American Psychiatric Association
http://www.psych.org

Mental Health America
http://www.nmha.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Psychiatric Association
http://www.cpa-apc.org

Canadian Psychological Association
http://www.cpa.ca

References

Aboujaoude E, Gamel N, Koran L. Overview of kleptomania and phenomenological description of 40 patients. Prim Care Companion. J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6(6):244-247.

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.

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