Kleptomania is the inability to resist impulses to steal. The things that are stolen are not needed for personal use or their monetary value. This is a rare condition.
The exact cause of kleptomania is not known. Chemical imbalances in the brain may play a role.
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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Kleptomania appears to be more common in females than in males.
Kleptomania often occurs with other psychological disorders. These include:
- Substance abuse, such as alcohol use disorder and drug abuse
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
- Other impulse control disorders
Other factors that may increase your risk include:
- Having a first-degree relative with a history of kleptomania, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, or alcohol or drug abuse
- Having a brain injury
Symptoms of kleptomania include all of the following:
- A repeated inability to resist impulses to steal things that are not of personal value
- A feeling of relief, joy, and/or pleasure when stealing things
- Feeling of guilt or remorse after the event
- Thefts that are not committed out of anger, or for revenge or personal gain
- Lack of a better explanation for the theft, such as another psychological disorder
Kleptomania is different from shoplifting or ordinary theft, which is:
- Motivated by the stolen item's usefulness or monetary value
- The result of a dare, an act of rebellion, or a rite of passage
A psychiatrist or psychologist will diagnose kleptomania when:
- All of the symptoms of kleptomania are present
- There is no other, better explanation for repeated thefts
- Kleptomania is not an excuse for shoplifting or ordinary theft
Treatment may involve treating an underlying disease. Other treatments include:
Counseling or Therapy
Counseling or therapy may be in a group or one-to-one setting. It is usually aimed at dealing with underlying psychological problems that may be contributing to kleptomania. It may also include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Behavior modification therapy
- Family therapy
Stress reduction techniques, including medicine, yoga, or tai chi, may also be taught in therapy.
Drugs used for treatment include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, medicines to treat drug addiction, and medicines to treat seizure disorders.
There are no current guidelines to prevent kleptomania because the cause is not known.
American Psychiatric Association
Mental Health America
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Aboujaoude E, Gamel N, Koran L. Overview of kleptomania and phenomenological description of 40 patients. Prim Care Companion. J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6(6):244-247.
The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. New York, NY: Columbia University Press; 2001.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
Kuzma JM, Black DW. Compulsive disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2004;6(1):58-65.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 9/2/2020