Kleptomania is defined as a constant habit of stealing items that the individual doesn’t need to use or sell in order to get money. Kleptomaniacs can afford to buy the items they steal but they derive intense pleasure from getting away with stealing things that don’t belong to them. The stealing is not done to express anger or in response to delusions or hallucinations.
Kleptomania is often seen in individuals with bulimia or obsessive compulsive disorder. Some kleptomaniacs steal in order to calm their intense feelings of anxiety while others experience feelings of guilt, remorse, and self-loathing after stealing. Kleptomania tends to be a rare condition and appears more often in women than among men.
Most kleptomaniacs have other psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and drug addiction. The onset of Kleptomania varies and can begin during childhood, early adulthood, or even in late adulthood. Research has shown that pyromania has many ties to kleptomania because many pyromaniacs begin fires next to petty theft that resembles kleptomania.
General symptoms include an intense urge to steal; a feeling of anxiety, fear, or relief right after completing the theft, compulsive stealing, lack of malice, and lack of conduct disorders or manic episodes.
The precise cause of this disorder is not known. However, there are a number of possible causes that are suspected to influence the development of kleptomania. People who have other mental disorders may develop kleptomania. Patients who have a history of depression are more likely to develop this disorder. Anxiety and the abuse of drugs and alcohol may also be factors. For those with impulse control disorders, kleptomania may be another way that the disorder presents itself.
If there is a chemical imbalance inside the brain, especially in the impulse-controlling frontal lobe, this may be a cause in some patients. Having low serotonin levels in the brain can cause a difficulty in regulating emotions and moods, as well as making people more prone to a lack of impulse control. Many people who develop kleptomania have addictive disorders that make them crave the release of dopamine in the brain that they get when they steal something. People who have eating disorders or bipolar disorder are more likely to develop kleptomania. Those who have suffered a brain injury or head trauma may develop this disorder. Having a family history of kleptomania may raise the risk of developing it. Being female is another risk factor- about two-thirds of sufferers are female. Younger people are more at risk for developing this disorder. It usually begins in the teen years and into young adulthood.
Treatment involves cognitive behavioral therapy and medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil which are known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that increase the amount of serotonin within the brain.
Psychotherapy is usually the preventative measure sought by sufferers. Learning behavior modification techniques and practicing better impulse control can be helpful in preventing more instances of the disorder. In some cases, an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed to treat related mental disorders that could result in kleptomania. Getting treatment as soon as the symptoms start to manifest can help patients to be more effective in preventing the behaviors.