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Kleptomania: Everything You Need To Know About It

Ever found yourself captivated by an impulse to pocket something you didn’t need, let alone want? Have you felt the tug of an inexplicable urge to snatch an item, not for its value, but for an elusive sense of relief? Maybe you’ve experienced the guilt-ridden aftermath of such an act, wondering why you couldn’t resist. If these scenarios resonate, you might be peeking into the intricate world of kleptomania. Join us on a journey to unravel the enigma behind this compelling urge, exploring its symptoms, treatments, and the intricacies of diagnosis. Let’s dive into the depths of this complex mental health condition together.

What is Kleptomania?


Kleptomania is a mental health disorder characterized by a recurrent urge to steal items that are not needed for personal use or their monetary value. It’s important to differentiate kleptomania from theft driven by anger, revenge, or a desire for personal gain.

Key Symptoms


  • Compulsive Stealing: Individuals with kleptomania often experience a strong, uncontrollable impulse to steal items.
  • Tension Before Theft: Before stealing, individuals may feel increasing tension or anxiety.
  • Sense of Relief After Theft: Following the act of stealing, there’s often a sense of relief or gratification, though it’s short-lived.
  • Guilt and Shame: After the theft, feelings of guilt, shame, or remorse can arise.

DSM-5 Criteria

  • Recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal items that are not needed for personal use or their monetary value.
  • Increasing tension before committing theft.
  • Pleasure, gratification, or relief when stealing.
  • The thefts aren’t committed out of anger or revenge, nor are they a result of hallucinations or delusions.
  • The stolen items aren’t taken due to a conduct disorder, a manic episode, or to express defiance or revenge.
  • The thefts aren’t better explained by another mental disorder, such as antisocial personality disorder, a manic episode, or a substance use disorder.

Is Kleptomania and Stealing The Same?

Kleptomania and stealing, while both involve taking items that don’t belong to you, are not the same. The key difference lies in the motivations and impulses behind the actions:

Kleptomania: This is a mental health disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to steal items. People with kleptomania often steal items they don’t need or want, experiencing tension before the theft and a sense of relief or gratification afterward. Importantly, there’s typically no personal gain or premeditation involved, and feelings of guilt and remorse often follow the act.

Stealing: On the other hand, stealing typically involves a conscious decision to take something that isn’t yours for personal gain, out of necessity, or for other motives like anger, revenge, or financial profit. Unlike kleptomania, stealing is often premeditated and driven by rational or emotional factors.

So, while both involve taking items without permission, the motivations, impulses, and psychological factors underlying kleptomania and stealing are distinct. Kleptomania is considered a mental health condition, whereas stealing may be driven by various motives and intentions.


The causes of kleptomania aren’t entirely understood, but several factors may contribute to its development:

  • Biological Factors: Differences in brain chemistry or functioning, including abnormalities in the brain’s opioid system or neurotransmitters like serotonin.
  • Genetics: There might be a genetic predisposition to impulsive behaviors or mental health disorders, including kleptomania.
  • Psychological Factors: Underlying psychological issues like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive traits, or feelings of deprivation or inadequacy might contribute.
  • Environmental Triggers: Traumatic events, stress, or exposure to situations where stealing is present or tolerated might also play a role.
  • Neurological Conditions: Some neurological conditions or brain injuries might lead to changes in impulse control or decision-making, potentially contributing to kleptomania.

Neurological Roots of Kleptomania


Studies have shown that kleptomania might have a neurobiological basis. Some research suggests that individuals with kleptomania might have alterations in the brain’s opioid system, which could contribute to the urge to steal.

Additionally, there’s evidence indicating a potential link between kleptomania and certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin. Changes in serotonin levels have been associated with impulse control disorders, potentially shedding light on the neurological mechanisms behind kleptomania.

Understanding these factors can help in developing better treatments and strategies for managing kleptomania. However, the exact interplay between these factors and how they contribute to the development of kleptomania is an area that requires further research.

Gender Disparity


Moreover, while kleptomania is often depicted in media as a mostly female-centric disorder, research indicates that it occurs in both men and women, although it might be underreported in men due to societal stigmas or differences in seeking help for mental health issues. This highlights the importance of understanding and addressing the condition across genders.


The diagnosis of kleptomania revolves around key criteria. Firstly, it hinges on recognizing recurrent thefts devoid of pre-planning or any apparent motive. This impulsive behavior often occurs without prior intent or personal gain. Secondly, it’s crucial to acknowledge the significant emotional distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other vital areas of life that result from these actions.

Lastly, arriving at a kleptomania diagnosis involves a meticulous process of excluding other potential causes for the behavior. This comprehensive evaluation helps differentiate kleptomania from other conditions or motives that might manifest in similar actions, ensuring a precise diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


Certainly, the treatment for kleptomania typically involves a combination of therapeutic approaches and, in some cases, medication. Here are the main components:



Cognitive-behavioral therapy(CBT)

This form of therapy aims to identify and modify the thoughts and behaviors associated with kleptomania. It helps individuals recognize triggers, manage impulses, and develop coping strategies to resist the urge to steal.

Group Therapy or Support Groups

Engaging with others facing similar challenges can provide a sense of community, encouragement, and shared experiences. Support groups offer a platform for individuals to discuss strategies and receive support from peers.



Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

These antidepressants may be prescribed to help regulate mood and reduce the frequency of kleptomaniac episodes. SSRIs can assist in managing impulsivity and controlling the urge to steal.

Lifestyle Adjustments


Stress Management

Learning and implementing stress-reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, or relaxation exercises, can help minimize triggers.

Avoiding Triggers

Identifying situations or environments that might prompt kleptomaniac behaviors and working to avoid or manage these triggers.

Seeking Professional Help


Consulting Mental Health Professionals

It’s crucial to seek guidance from psychologists, psychiatrists, or other mental health experts experienced in treating impulse control disorders like kleptomania.

Open Communication

Building a trusting relationship with a healthcare professional allows for better understanding and tailoring of treatment plans to individual needs.

Family and Social Support


Involvement of Supportive Networks

Encouraging the involvement of family and friends in the treatment process can provide a strong support system for individuals dealing with kleptomania.

Continued Monitoring and Follow-Up


Regular Assessments

Periodic check-ins with healthcare providers help monitor progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan if needed.

Remember, the treatment approach may vary for each individual based on their specific circumstances, severity of symptoms, and response to interventions. Seeking professional guidance is essential to determine the most suitable treatment strategy for managing kleptomania.


In conclusion, kleptomania, a complex mental health condition, goes beyond mere theft. Its recurrent impulses, often without clear motives, signify a deeper struggle. As research continues to delve into the neurological underpinnings, unveiling potential links to brain chemistry, there’s progress in understanding kleptomania at its core. With empathy, awareness, and tailored interventions, individuals grappling with kleptomania can navigate toward a life where impulses no longer dictate actions.



Farzeen Mubarak
Farzeen Mubarakhttps://bepsych.com/
Hello, I'm Farzeen, a writer who loves to explore different topics. I've written articles on a wide range of subjects, from technology to health, lifestyle, and more. My goal is to create content that's easy to understand and enjoyable to read. When I'm not writing, I'm out discovering new places and trying delicious food. I'm always eager to learn and share fresh insights with my readers.



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