What is Kleptomania?

Is Stealing a Disease?

An irresistible impulse to steal objects (even in the absence of any economic motive) is define as Kleptomania. These things are very often not necessary for you or they are of little value. Kleptomania is an intense mental disorder that brings pain to you and your near and dear ones if left untreated.

What is Kleptomania

People with kleptomania cannot control their urge or impulse to steal and hence kleptomania is a classic impulse control disorder when the individual fails to resist an urge to perform any act that is harmful for both to him/ her and to others who are with them. If you are a kleptomaniac, you will have difficulty in resisting the enticement or a drive to carry out an act that is excessively harmful for you and also others around you.

There are lots of people who suffer from kleptomania, leading a life of shame, but are afraid to get the treatment. Though, the kleptomaniac patient cannot be completely cured, yet psychotherapy and the medicine treatment might be helpful to prevent the cycle of obsessive stealing.

Is Kleptomania a Genetic Disorder?

The cause of kleptomania is not yet known, though it may be transmitted genetically from immediate relatives such as your parents. Kleptomania may also coexist with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and also it has the tendency to be associated with clinical depression and bulimia nervosa.

What Causes Kleptomania?

The exact reason for kleptomania is not known. Some of the researchers say that modification in the brain structure can be the cause of Kleptomania. More exploration is necessary to understand the possible causes clearly, but kleptomania could be:

  • Associated with the problem of neurotransmitter or brain chemical called serotonin that helps controlling emotions and moods. Impulsive behaviors most often occurred by the low levels of serotonin.
  • Kleptomania is related to obsessive disorder and robbery/ shoplifting might release another neurotransmitter called dopamine. It creates a sense of gratification/pleasure, and it makes the patient steal again and again.
  • Kleptomania is connected to the opioid system of the brain. The opioid system controls the urges of the brain. A disparity in this system could be the cause of kleptomania.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Kleptomania?

The signs and symptoms of Kleptomania may comprise:

  • Incapable of resisting the strong urges to steal necessary/ unnecessary items.
  • Senses of feeling high levels of anxiety, tension, or provocation that leads to theft.
  • Feeling of relief, pleasure, fulfillment after stealing.
  • Feeling awful guilt, self-loathing, remorse, shame and also the fear to be caught.
  • Returning of the desires and a recurrence of the cycle of stealing.

What are the Specific Characteristics of Kleptomania?

People suffering of kleptomania reveal some of the following characteristics:

  • The typical shoplifters are not alike as a kleptomaniac. They steal for personal gain or when they are in real need or in trouble. But a kleptomaniac steals because they cannot resist the urge of stealing.
  • Kleptomania generally comes about impulsively, unplanned, without any help from others.
  • The kleptomaniacs lift from the public places, like supermarket and stores. Some may pilfer from acquaintances or friends or from a party.
  • It is very often the case that the stolen objects do not have any value to the kleptomaniac, and the patient can easily meet the expense of buying the stolen objects.
  • The stolen items usually stacked away and never used in future. These things sometimes are donated to others or returned secretly where from it was stolen.
  • The desire to lift does not remain same over the course of time. It may go, but again come with bigger intensity, or may be lesser.

When to Consult a Doctor for Kleptomania?

If after all you cannot stop stealing, seek out medical advices. Many people who might have kleptomania do not wish for treatment because they are afraid they will be in detention. Though, a psychiatrist usually never reports the theft to the authority.

  • Again, there are some who ask for medical assistance as they think that they might get arrested and need legal treatment.
  • Some people seek medical help because they are afraid they will get caught and have legal consequences. Or they have already been in detention, and it is officially mandatory for them to seek treatment.
  • Receiving medical help under the care of mental health specialists will bring for you great control over the habit of pilfering.

What are the Risk Factors for Kleptomania?

Kleptomania is relatively unknown because people hardly seek any treatment to this problem. They are simply accused of repeated theft and are jailed. Even, many cases of lifting are not even diagnosed. It is important to note about the age of the people involved in the kleptomania. It is most often occur to the teenager and young adult. It is almost rare to find an adult to be involved in this offensive act. The following are the possible risk factors of kleptomania:

Family History is a Risk Factor for Kleptomania: The direct relatives of the patient such as parents or siblings who have kleptomania or addiction to alcohol may prone to suffer from this disorder.

Being female is a Risk Factor for Kleptomania: The women population is more exposed to the disorder of kleptomania than the male.

Having Other Mental Illness is also a Risk Factor for Kleptomania: The Kleptomania is such an illness that comes again and again and brings with it other mental disorders:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Substance use disorder
  • Personality disorder.

Previous Head trauma or Brain Injuries Is a Risk Factor for Kleptomania: People with past record of injury to the head can become kleptomaniacs in future.

What are the Complications for Kleptomania?

Kleptomania if left untreated can give rise to severe emotional problems as well as family, financial and work related complicacies. Such as, in spite of feeling that stealing is wrong, it is impossible for you to resist it. It leads you feel bust up. You know that stealing is wrong, but you will not have the sense to resist the impulse, so you may be mentally upset by the negative feelings like shame, guilt, shame, humiliation and self-loathing. You may otherwise lead an ethical, honorable life and be puzzled and disturbed by your obsessive nature of stealing. Some of the complications associated with the kleptomania are:

  • Compulsive shopping or gambling
  • Taken into custody for shoplifting
  • Captivity
  • Abuse of alcohol
  • The disorder of eating
  • Dejection
  • Anxiousness
  • Depression.

What Medical Tests are conducted to Diagnose Kleptomania?

Evaluation of both psychological and physical conditions is necessary before treating the symptoms of potential kleptomania. The physical exam helps to detect if there are any medical causes behind the signs and symptoms.

The diagnosis depends on the symptoms and signs of kleptomania. As it is a kind of disorder related to impulse control, your physician may take following steps to find out a proper diagnosis:

  • Examine well your urge and your feelings.
  • Enlist and review the situation whether the situations produce any episodes of kleptomania.
  • Make you write out the psychological questions or self-assessments.

Numbers of health care experts use the criteria in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which is published by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) to diagnose mental conditions. This guide-book t is also followed by the Insurance companies to compensate for the procedure of healing. The features of the criteria of DSM-5 for Kleptomania are:

  • Repeated failure to defend against urges of stealing the objects which are not required for financial worth or use for personal issue.
  • Feeling tension highly just before stealing anything.
  • Feeling of joy, satisfaction or relief at the time of stealing.
  • The stealing is not done to take revenge or to show anger. It is not done during delusion or hallucination.
  • The theft is not associated to a conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or a manic episode of bipolar disorder.

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Last Modified On: April 27, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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