What is Kleptomania?

Kleptomania is a condition that belongs to the group of impulsive disorder control when the patient cannot refrain from shoplifting or stealing. Although it rarely happens to someone, but this mental illness makes sufferers emotionally disturbed. So, they are ashamed to seek treatment.

Generally, kleptomania formed in adolescence, but some are appearing as adults. The sufferers often carry out their actions in public places such as in shops. But there are some who shoplift from friends’ houses. This disorder can be experienced by children, adolescents, or adults. Although rare, this mental disorder can also be experienced in old age.

What is Kleptomania - Symptoms, Treatment, and Causes

Kleptomania Symptoms

Keep in mind, Kleptomania is different from theft based on criminal motives. A number of symptoms found are:

  • The sufferers always fail to resist a strong urge to steal, even if the stolen item is something that is worthless and unnecessary. This is different from criminal theft which steals valuable and high-value items.
  • The sufferers feel anxious and tense when trying to shoplifting. Then, a sense of pleasure and satisfaction come after successfully doing the action. In the end, guilt, regret, shame, and fear of being caught appear. However, they still could not stop themselves from repeating their actions.
  • The sufferers generally carry out their actions spontaneously and alone. In contrast to criminal thieves who often involve others and make plans before stealing. Stolen items are also rarely used for themselves.
  • The sufferers generally discard the stolen item or give it to friends or family.
  • The shoplifting that they do is not related to the response to delusions or hallucinations, anger or revenge.

Kleptomania Causes

The cause of this mental disorder is not known for certain. This condition is thought to be formed due to the changes in chemical composition in the brain.

The chemical composition changes are such as decreased levels of serotonin or hormones in charge of regulating emotions, imbalance of the brain’s opioid system that causes the desire to steal cannot be arrested, and the release of dopamine which makes the offender feel happy for his actions and tend to be addicted.

Risk Factors

Kleptomania rarely happens to someone. However, there are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of experiencing this impulsive behavior, including:

  • Family history. This mental disorder is more prone to occur in someone from a family suffering from this disorder, alcoholics, or drug users.
  • History of mental illness. The sufferers generally experience other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or personality disorders.
  • Gender. Two of 3 sufferers are women.
What is Kleptomania - Symptoms, Treatment, and Causes


In diagnosing, the doctor will ask questions and answers related to the encouragement felt by the patient, and how the patient feels before, during and after stealing. The doctor will also make a list of situations that can trigger the urge to Kleptomania.

Conclusions will be made based on information submitted directly by patients or through questionnaires that they fill. The doctor will also do a physical examination to determine whether there are medical diseases that underlie the symptoms that appear.

Kleptomania Treatment

Although this impulsive behavior cannot be cured, this condition can be treated with medical assistance. Treatment given is generally a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

The type of psychotherapy that is commonly applied to is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Through this method, the patient will be given an overview of the actions that he did and the consequences such as dealing with the authorities.

Through this description, patients are expected to realize that the theft they committed is the wrong action. Patients will also be taught how to fight or control their strong desire to steal with relaxation techniques.

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For medicines, the doctor will prescribe an antidepressant type selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). This drug works by making serotonin work more effectively. Serotonin can reduce emotional stability. Doctors can also give opioid antagonist drugs to reduce the urge to steal and the pleasure that arises after stealing.

The continued treatment is needed to prevent recurrence of Kleptomania. If the symptoms have improved but the desire to steal again, see a doctor immediately.