Kleptomania: Description, Causes and Risk Factors: A disorder of impulse control characterized by a morbid tendency to steal. KleptomaniaKleptomania is a complex disorder characterized by repeated, failed attempts to stop stealing. It is often seen in patients who are chemically dependent or who have a coexisting mood, anxiety, or eating disorder. Other coexisting mental disorders may include major depression, panic attacks, social phobia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, substance abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with this disorder have an overwhelming urge to steal and get a thrill from doing so. The recurrent act of stealing may be restricted to specific objects and settings, but the affected person may or may not describe these special preferences. The exact cause of kleptomania is unknown, although it may have a genetic component and may be transmitted among first-degree relatives. There also seems to be a strong propensity for kleptomania to coexist with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosa, and clinical depression. Kleptomania may be linked to problems with a naturally occurring brain chemical (neurotransmitter) called serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate moods and emotions. Low levels of serotonin are common in people prone to impulsive behaviors. Scientists estimate that kleptomania occurs in 5 to 10 percent of psychiatric patients. Studies suggest that 0.6% of the general population may have this disorder and that it is more common in females than males. In patients who have histories of obsessive-compulsive disorder, some studies suggest a 7% correlation with kleptomania. Other studies have reported a particularly high (65%) correlation of kleptomania in patients with bulimia nervosa. Symptoms: Top five symptoms of kleptomania may include: Diagnosis: Kleptomania is usually diagnosed based on your signs and symptoms.To be diagnosed with kleptomania, you must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).Criteria for a kleptomania diagnosis include: You have an inability to resist urges to steal objects that aren't needed for personal use or monetary value.
  • You feel increasing tension leading up to the theft.
  • You sense feelings of pleasure, relief or gratification during the act of stealing.
  • The theft isn't committed as a way to exact revenge or to express anger, and isn't done while hallucinating or delusional.
  • The stealing isn't related to manic episodes of bipolar disorder or other mental health disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).
Treatment: Not much solid information is known about this disorder. Since it is not usually the presenting problem or chief complaint, it is frequently not even diagnosed. There are some case reports that document treatment success with antidepressant medications, although as with almost all psychological disorders, the outcomes vary. Once the disorder is suspected and verified by an extensive psychological interview, therapy is normally directed towards impulse control, as well as any accompanying mental disorder(s). Relapse prevention strategies, with a clear understanding of specific triggers, should be stressed. Treatment may include psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and rational emotive therapy. Recent studies have indicated that fluoxetine (Prozac) and naltrexone (ReVia) may also be helpful. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like fluoxetine (Prozac ®™), paroxetine (Paxil™) and fluvoxamine (Luvox®™) have been used to treat kleptomania, but case reports of these treatments have demonstrated mixed results. Some have reported success in relieving kleptomania symptoms, while others have not indicated any effects at all. NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


  1. sarah

    question: can kleptamania be diagnosed in a 26 year old male, with emotional issues, before he has ever suffered any consenquences for his thft? (for example, being put to jail for a few hours)

    • maisteri

      Kleptomania is not diagnosed based on the consequences of the theft rather on the emotional and mental state of the person.
      The diagnostic criteria include the following: A. The person is not able to resist impulses to steal objects that are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value and this happens recurrently; B. Person experiences an increasing sense of tension immediately before committing the theft and pleasure, gratification, or relief at the time of committing the theft; C. The stealing is not committed to express anger or vengeance and is not is not better explained by other mental disorder.
      If a person has such issues he should consult with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist who will help to determine whether that’s kleptomania or not and help to recover.


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