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.
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.
This condition often occurs with other mental health problems. These include:
- Substance abuse, such as alcohol use disorder and drug abuse
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
- Other impulse control problems
Other things that may raise the risk are:
Having a family member with:
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Having a brain injury
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
Mental Health America
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Antidepressant medication overview. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/drug-review/antidepressant-medication-overview. 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: https://www.dana.org/article/shoplifting-and-suicide/. 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