Kleptomania: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Have you ever heard of kleptomania? It’s not just a term used in movies; it’s a real psychological disorder that affects individuals in profound ways. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of kleptomania, exploring what it is, its potential causes, the symptoms that characterize it, and the available treatment options.

Understanding Kleptomania

Defining Kleptomania

Kleptomania is a mental health disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to steal items, even if they hold little to no personal value. People with kleptomania often experience tension and anxiety leading up to the theft and feel a sense of relief or gratification after stealing.

Differentiating Theft and Kleptomania

Unlike common theft, which is typically motivated by personal gain, kleptomania is driven by a psychological compulsion. Individuals with kleptomania may steal items they don’t need, and the act itself is often unplanned and lacks rational motivation.

Causes of Kleptomania

Neurobiological Factors

Research suggests that kleptomania may be linked to imbalances in neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly those related to pleasure and reward.

Genetic Predisposition

There’s evidence to suggest that genetics may play a role in the development of kleptomania, as it often runs in families.

Symptoms of Kleptomania

Intense Urges

Individuals with kleptomania experience strong, irresistible urges to steal items, often feeling a buildup of tension until the act is carried out.

Emotional Relief

After stealing, individuals with kleptomania may experience a sense of relief or pleasure. This emotional relief reinforces the behavior and perpetuates the cycle.

Feeling of Guilt

Despite the relief, feelings of guilt and shame often follow the act of stealing. This can contribute to a cycle of negative emotions.

Diagnosis and Recognition

Criteria for Diagnosis

To be diagnosed with kleptomania, an individual must meet specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), including recurrent thefts that aren’t motivated by anger, revenge, or delusions.

Assessing Underlying Factors

Mental health professionals assess for underlying psychological factors that might contribute to kleptomania, such as anxiety, depression, or impulse control disorders.

Impact on Daily Life

Legal Consequences

Kleptomania-related theft can lead to legal issues, with individuals facing charges and consequences for their actions.

Interpersonal Relationships

The secrecy surrounding kleptomania can strain relationships, as individuals may struggle to explain their behavior to loved ones.

Treatment Approaches


Therapy, such as psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy, aims to uncover underlying emotional issues that contribute to kleptomania.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals recognize and change harmful thought patterns and behaviors. In the case of kleptomania, it focuses on impulse control and coping mechanisms.


Certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be prescribed to help manage the impulses and emotions associated with kleptomania.

Coping Strategies

Self-Help Techniques

Mindfulness, stress reduction techniques, and engaging in healthy hobbies can help individuals manage the urges associated with kleptomania.

Building Impulse Control

Therapeutic exercises and techniques aimed at building impulse control can be valuable tools for managing kleptomania.

Research and Progress

Advancements in Understanding

Research into the neurobiological and genetic underpinnings of kleptomania is contributing to a deeper understanding of the disorder.

Future Directions

As understanding grows, there’s hope for more targeted and effective treatments for kleptomania, as well as improved support systems.

FAQs About Kleptomania

Can kleptomania be controlled without professional help?

While professional help greatly enhances management, individuals can learn self-help strategies to manage urges. However, seeking professional guidance is recommended.

Is kleptomania a form of rebellion?

No, kleptomania is not a form of rebellion. It’s a psychological disorder driven by uncontrollable urges.

Are there any age or gender patterns associated with kleptomania?

Kleptomania can affect people of any age and gender, but it often starts in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Can medication completely cure kleptomania?

Medication can help manage symptoms, but a comprehensive approach that includes therapy and coping strategies is usually necessary for long-term management.

How can families support individuals with kleptomania?

Families can provide emotional support, encourage professional help, and learn about the disorder to better understand and support their loved ones.

Kleptomania is a complex disorder that goes beyond mere theft. With the right interventions and support, individuals affected by kleptomania can work towards managing their impulses and improving their quality of life.


  1. Mayo Clinic Website: Mayo Clinic offers an informative overview of kleptomania, including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.
  2. Psychology Today Website: Psychology Today provides articles, insights, and resources related to kleptomania, helping readers understand the psychological aspects of the disorder.
  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Website: NAMI offers a comprehensive guide to kleptomania, focusing on its impact on mental health and available support options.
  4. WebMD Website: WebMD provides a succinct FAQ section on kleptomania, addressing common questions and concerns.
  5. MedlinePlus – U.S. National Library of Medicine Website: MedlinePlus offers a thorough overview of kleptomania, including its definition, causes, symptoms, and potential treatments.

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