A persistent neurotic impulse to steal especially without economic motive

Kleptomania: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

Kleptomania, a psychiatric condition characterized by compulsive stealing behaviors, represents a unique challenge in the realm of mental health disorders. Often overshadowed by more well-known conditions such as depression and anxiety, kleptomania can significantly impair an individual’s functioning and quality of life.

Mayo Clinic provides a clear definition, “kleptomania (klep-toe-MAY-nee-uh) is a mental health disorder that involves repeatedly being unable to resist urges to steal items that you generally don’t really need. Often the items stolen have little value and you can afford to buy them. Kleptomania is rare but can be a serious condition.”

The same source affirms that the symptoms and features include:

– Inability to resist powerful urges to steal items that you don’t need.
– Feeling increased tension, anxiety or arousal leading up to the theft.
– Feeling pleasure, relief or satisfaction while stealing.
– Feeling terrible guilt, remorse, self-loathing, shame or fear of arrest after the theft.
– Return of the urges and a repetition of the kleptomania cycle.
– Unlike most shoplifters, people with kleptomania don’t compulsively steal for personal gain, on a dare, for revenge or out of rebellion.
– They steal simply because the urge is so powerful that they can’t resist it.
– Episodes of kleptomania generally happen suddenly, without planning and without help from another person.
– Most people with kleptomania steal from public places, such a store.
– Some may steal from friends or acquaintances, such as at a party.

Who does kleptomania affect? According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Women and people assigned (AFAB) are three times more likely to have kleptomania than men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB). It can happen to people of almost all ages, with cases diagnosed as young as age 4 and as old as age 77.” Additionally, “kleptomania is uncommon. Experts estimate that it affects between 0.3% and 0.6% of the U.S. population. People with kleptomania make up between 4% and 5% of people arrested for shoplifting.”

“Kleptomania is categorized as an impulse control disorder. However, research has shown it has features in common with addictive disorders (substance use disorder, gambling disorder) and obsessive-compulsive disorders. People with kleptomania may also have other conditions, such as depression or anxiety. One study of college students found that urges to steal were associated with worse depressive symptoms, higher levels of stress and several psychiatric disorders.”

What is the treatment? According to the National Library of Medicine, “pharmacological management using selective serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other antidepressants, mood stabilizers and opioid receptor antagonists, as adjuvants to cognitive-behavioral therapy, has produced promising results.” 

In sum, it is evident that kleptomania poses considerable clinical and societal implications, necessitating a comprehensive approach to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. By fostering a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms driving compulsive stealing behavior, we can strive towards more effective interventions and support systems for individuals grappling with kleptomania.

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