A disorder known as kleptomania is characterized by an overwhelming impulse to steal. People will steal things that are unnecessary, have little to no monetary value, or that they could afford to buy. Kleptomaniacs release tension by committing theft in order to feel better. A person who has kleptomania suffers from an uncontrolled drive to steal stuff. People with this syndrome may strive unsuccessfully to resist the temptation to steal, and many of them experience regret or shame after doing so. Kleptomaniacs don’t steal because they lack self-control, willpower, or other virtues. Rather, it is a medical condition where a person is unable to control their want to steal. People with kleptomania frequently experience guilt, humiliation, or stress as a result of their theft.
At what age kleptomania begin?
The beginning of kleptomania can happen at any age. It can start while a person is young, adolescent, or adult. Rarely, it could start in late adulthood.
How common the kleptomania is?
Shoplifting is prevalent, but real kleptomania is rather uncommon (0.3 to 0.6 percent of the general population). According to estimates, kleptomania affects between 4 and 24 percent of shoplifters.
Does it run in families?
It does not appear to, despite some study suggesting that relatives of kleptomaniacs may have greater rates of obsessive-compulsive disorder than the general population. It also does not appear that relatives of kleptomaniacs have higher rates of alcohol use disorder than the general population.
What Problems Can Kleptomania Cause?
Between 43% and 55% of kleptomania patients also experience co-occurring psychological illnesses. Kleptomania is reported to frequently co-occur with histrionic personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder.
Symptoms of Kleptomania:
The primary sign of kleptomania is an uncontrollable drive or need to steal things or stuff.
- Before stealing, a person experiences stress or suspense, and shortly after, they feel joy, relief, or other good emotions.
- After the pleasant feelings pass, most kleptomaniacs experience remorse, shame, or regret.
- Some individuals discard stolen goods, give them to others, or give them to charities. Less frequently, someone will stockpile stolen goods, covertly give them back, or give them back and pay for them.
- Feelings of anxiety before a theft, joy, fulfillment, or relief during a theft, and frequently feelings of guilt, shame, and/or remorse after a theft, as well as occasionally feelings of despair.
- The thief’s thefts are not motivated by retaliation or wrath and are not the result of hallucinations, mania, or delusions.
Causes of kleptomania:
The DSM-5 states that disturbances of serotonin and dopamine-related neurotransmitter pathways, which can affect aggression and the brain’s reward system, appear to be a contributing factor in the development of kleptomania. The opioid system in the brain may also be out of balance in some people, which affects their capacity to withstand impulses.
- Brain Anatomy: Brain variations, particularly in regions that control impulse control and inhibitions, are more prevalent in those with kleptomania.
- Mental Chemistry: Neurotransmitters are specialized substances that your brain utilizes to communicate and control specific functions. There are instances where individuals who started using drugs that influence the neurotransmitters in their brains later acquired kleptomania.
- Genes: There isn’t conclusive proof that kleptomania is inherited, despite the fact that those who have it frequently have a family history of other mental health issues, particularly anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders.
- Further Mental Health Issues: The majority of people who have kleptomania also have another psychiatric disease, such as an anxiety disorder, an eating disorder (particularly bulimia), a personality disorder, a substance use disorder (especially alcohol use disorder), or other conduct or impulse control issues.
- Psychiatric Disease
- Anxiety Disorder
- Eating Disorder
- Personality Disorder
- Substance Abuse Disorder
Risk Factors of Kleptomania:
The following elements raise the likelihood of kleptomania.
- Diseases of addiction in which the dopamine level appears to rise. Addiction is mostly brought on by dopamine.
- A history of kleptomania in the family.
- Women’s gender. Kleptomania affects two out of three persons, and most of them are women.
- Head injuries and concussions.
- Personality disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are examples of mental health problems.
Treatment of kleptomania:
Psychotherapy and psychopharmacology may be used in conjunction to treat kleptomania. One-on-one or group counseling or therapy is both possible. In either scenario, the emphasis is on addressing underlying psychological issues that may be a factor in a person’s kleptomania.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A psycho-social intervention, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tries to lessen the symptoms of a variety of mental health illnesses, notably depression and anxiety disorders. To improve emotional regulation and create individualized coping mechanisms that are geared toward managing present issues, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on confronting and altering cognitive distortions (such as thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and their associated actions. Despite being first developed to treat depression, it is now used to treat a wide range of mental health issues, such as anxiety substance use disorders, marital issues, and eating disorders.
- Systematic Desensitization:
It is a type of CBT that entails exposing kleptomaniacs to uncomfortable situations less frequently. The overarching objective is to increase people’s comfort levels with not stealing. In particular, a person would simulate fighting against the impulse to steal while working on relaxation or coping skills with their therapist.
- Aversion Therapy:
Kleptomania patients may benefit from aversion therapy as a means of diverting their attention or discouraging them from stealing. Through the use of various uncomfortable tactics, aversion treatment is utilized to curb drives to steal. For instance, a person might practice holding their breath or pinching their skin with their therapist when they sense the need to steal.
- Covert Sensitization:
Similar techniques to systematic desensitization and aversion therapy are used in covert sensitization. In other words, a kleptomaniac gradually develops the ability to stop stealing by repeatedly visualizing the repercussions of getting caught.