What is a Kleptomania? (with pictures)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Group therapy is one option for individuals struggling with kleptomania.
Group therapy is one option for individuals struggling with kleptomania.

Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder in which someone feels an uncontrollable urge to steal. Although some people find the concept amusing or laughable, kleptomania is actually a serious psychiatric condition, and it can cause large problems if not treated. Commonly, kleptomania is also part of another larger psychiatric condition which should be treated so that the patient can live a well-adjusted life.

Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder in which someone feels an uncontrollable urge to steal.
Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder in which someone feels an uncontrollable urge to steal.

The name for the condition comes from the Ancient Greek kleptein, which means “to steal,” and mania, for “craze.” Someone with kleptomania will feel an intense urge to steal objects which are often small and not valuable. Once an item is stolen, the kleptomaniac usually feels more comfortable, but he or she may experience intense feelings of guilt, which can lead to intense anxiety, triggering another episode.

Kleptomaniacs might be motivated by feelings of anger or rage.
Kleptomaniacs might be motivated by feelings of anger or rage.

Several conditions must be fulfilled before a person can be diagnosed with kleptomania. The first concerns the type of items stolen; a person with kleptomania does not steal out of economic need, or personal desire, he or she simply takes items, often hoarding them or sometimes even giving them back later. In some cases, a patient may collect a specific type of item, like office supplies. The thefts must not be motivated by anger, a desire for revenge, or hallucinations.

Hallucinations may occur in someone who has kleptomania.
Hallucinations may occur in someone who has kleptomania.

In addition, true kleptomania does not fall within the framework of other psychiatric disorders. For example, a manic depressive person might steal something during an episode, but he or she is not a kleptomaniac. Other conditions like social anxiety disorder and conduct disorder can lead people to steal things, but not in the recurrent cycle which characterizes kleptomania.

Cognitive behavior therapy is common treatment for those with kleptomania.
Cognitive behavior therapy is common treatment for those with kleptomania.

Before committing a theft, a patient often feels tense and stressed out. Once the item has been stolen, a feeling of relief or fulfillment occurs. Someone with kleptomania may be aware of the consequences of stealing, such as prosecution in a court of law, but he or she commits the theft anyway. Despite the fact that kleptomaniacs lack control over their own behavior, they can be held financially accountable in a court of law in many nations.

Hypnosis may be used to treat impulse control disorders such as kleptomania.
Hypnosis may be used to treat impulse control disorders such as kleptomania.

A variety of things can be used to treat kleptomania. Cognitive behavior therapy and other therapies are very common, especially since the condition is usually related to other conditions which require treatment. In some cases, pharmaceuticals may be used to see if the kleptomania is caused by an imbalance in the patient's brain. Some patients also benefit from group therapy, which reminds them that they are not alone and there is not shame in seeking treatment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Group therapy is one option for individuals struggling with kleptomania.
      Group therapy is one option for individuals struggling with kleptomania.
    • Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder in which someone feels an uncontrollable urge to steal.
      Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder in which someone feels an uncontrollable urge to steal.
    • Kleptomaniacs might be motivated by feelings of anger or rage.
      Kleptomaniacs might be motivated by feelings of anger or rage.
    • Hallucinations may occur in someone who has kleptomania.
      Hallucinations may occur in someone who has kleptomania.
    • Cognitive behavior therapy is common treatment for those with kleptomania.
      Cognitive behavior therapy is common treatment for those with kleptomania.
    • Hypnosis may be used to treat impulse control disorders such as kleptomania.
      Hypnosis may be used to treat impulse control disorders such as kleptomania.