Kleptomania is an overwhelming urge to steal. The things stolen are not needed for personal use or value. This is a rare condition.


The cause is unknown. Chemical imbalances in the brain may play a role.

Frontal Lobe

Frontal lobe
Psychological disorders are sometimes the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. The frontal lobe of the brain is thought to provide impulse control.
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Risk Factors

Kleptomania appears to be more common in females than in males.

This condition often occurs with other mental health problems. These include:

Other things that may raise the risk are:


Kleptomania differs from regular theft. The person does not steal on purpose. Symptoms are:

  • Repeated theft of things that are not of use
  • Relief or pleasure when stealing
  • Guilt or remorse after stealing
  • Theft is not due to anger or personal gain
  • Thefts are not explained by other disorders


A mental health doctor will ask about your symptoms. Kleptomania is diagnosed when:

  • A person has all the symptoms
  • There is no better reason for repeated thefts
  • Shoplifting or regular theft is ruled out


The goal is to stop the behavior. Underlying problems may also need treatment. Options may be:


There are no current guidelines to prevent kleptomania.


American Psychiatric Association


Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association


Antidepressant medication overview. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 9, 2021.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
Shoplifting and suicide. Dana Foundation website. Available at: Accessed March 9, 2021.
Zhang ZH, Huang FR, et al. Kleptomania: recent advances in symptoms, etiology and treatment. Curr Med Sci. 2018;38(5):937-940.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 03/09/2021