Kleptomania is a disorder that makes it difficult for sufferers to resist the urge to steal . Kleptomaniacs often steal from public places, but some shoplift from friends' homes.

Kleptomania belongs to a group of impulse control disorders , which are disorders that make it difficult for sufferers to control their emotions and behavior. Usually, kleptomania appears in adolescence, but it can also occur as an adult.

Kleptomania can make sufferers emotionally disturbed. If left unchecked, sufferers of kleptomania can experience serious mental disorders, get caught in the law, and even think about committing suicide .

Causes of Kleptomania

The cause of kleptomania is not known for certain, but it is suspected that this condition is related to disturbances in chemical compounds in the brain, such as:

  • Decreased levels of serotonin , a brain chemical that functions to regulate emotions and moods ( mood )
  • An imbalance in the brain's opioid system that causes an irresistible urge to steal
  • Disturbances in the release of dopamine , the brain chemical that causes feelings of pleasure and addiction

Kleptomania risk factors

Kleptomania is a rare emotional and behavioral disorder. Even so, there are several factors that can increase a person's risk of experiencing kleptomania, namely:

  • Have a family history of kleptomania, alcoholism, or drug abuse
  • Suffer from another mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder , anxiety disorder, or personality disorder

Kleptomania symptoms

Kleptomania is different from theft based on a criminal motive. A number of symptoms and signs that characterize kleptomania are:

1. Unable to resist the urge to steal

Kleptomaniac sufferers usually cannot resist the urge to steal even though the item stolen is something that is not valuable or not needed by the sufferer. This is different from criminal theft, which steals valuable and high-value items for personal gain.

2. Feeling anxious when stealing

Sufferers also usually feel anxious and tense when they want to commit theft. After successfully stealing, the sufferer will feel happy and satisfied, but also feel guilty, regretful, embarrassed, and afraid of being caught. Even so, sufferers still can not resist repeating his actions.

3. Spontaneously steals

Often times sufferers of kleptomania steal alone spontaneously. As opposed to criminal theft which mostly involves other people and devise a plan before committing the theft.

4. Do not use stolen items

Kleptomaniacs are rarely even inclined not to use stolen items for themselves. Sufferers usually throw away the stolen items or give them to friends or family.

5. Not stealing out of revenge

Theft by sufferers is not related to delusions or hallucinations . Sufferers also do not steal because of outbursts of anger or revenge.

6. Stealing in public places

Kleptomaniacs tend to prefer to steal in public places, such as shops or supermarkets. In some cases, people with kleptomania can also steal in a crowded place from their friends or acquaintances, such as when they are at a party.

When to see a doctor

Check with your doctor if you experience the above symptoms. While most people with kleptomania are reluctant to seek treatment for fear of prosecution, you shouldn't worry. The doctor will not report you to the authorities, but will instead help you deal with the problem at hand.

If your friends or family are suspected of having kleptomania, don't judge or blame them. Instead, convince them that the behavior is a mental disorder and invite them to consult a doctor.

Diagnosis of Kleptomania

The doctor will ask about the urge to steal that the patient feels, as well as what the patient feels before, while and after stealing. The doctor will also ask what situations can trigger the urge to steal.

The diagnosis of kleptomania is made based on information provided directly or through a questionnaire filled out by the patient. However, the doctor can also do blood tests, as well as a CT scan or MRI of the head, to make sure the patient's symptoms are not caused by a head injury or brain disorder.

Kleptomania Treatment

Kleptomania cannot be overcome alone and will continue if it is not treated medically. To treat this disorder, doctors can use psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. The following is an explanation:


The type of psychotherapy that is usually used to treat kleptomania is cognitive behavioral therapy . Through this therapy, the patient will be given an overview regarding the actions committed and the possible consequences, including dealing with the authorities.

That way, patients are expected to realize that theft is wrong so that patients are increasingly motivated not to steal again. Patients will also be taught how to fight their strong desire to steal, for example with relaxation techniques .


For medicines, doctors can prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant drugs . This drug makes serotonin work more effectively so it can stabilize the patient's emotions. Administration of this drug is usually done in conjunction with therapy.

Doctors can also give opioid antagonist drugs that function to reduce the urge to steal and the pleasure that arises after stealing.

Kleptomania must be treated on an ongoing basis so that it does not recur. If your symptoms have improved but you have the desire to steal again, see a doctor immediately.

Kleptomania complications

If left untreated, kleptomania can cause many problems in the life of the sufferer, both within the family and at work.

In addition, sufferers of kleptomania can feel guilty, ashamed, and even hate themselves. These feelings arise from realizing that stealing is wrong, but he cannot resist the urge to steal.

Other conditions that are thought to result from kleptomania include:

  • Depression
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Drug abuse
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Other impulsive disorders, such as gambling addiction
  • eating disorders
  • Suicide attempt

Kleptomania Prevention

As previously explained, the cause of kleptomania is not known with certainty. Therefore, it is not yet known how to prevent this behavior disorder. However, treatment as early as possible can prevent kleptomania from getting worse and reduce the risk of negative effects.

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