Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder characterized by an overpowering urge to steal items for reasons. While some scientists dispute that Kleptomania is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, this has not been conclusively proven. People with kleptomania do not steal just for materialistic needs once in a while. They steal compulsively because it gives them pleasure, and they may have difficulty resisting the desire to steal. It is like Pyromania in that the patients start fire out of impulse as it thrills them to start a fire.
People diagnosed with kleptomania may also be diagnosed with other behavioral defects such as mood-swings, anxiety, and substance abuse. Stealing tends to trigger dopamine secretion in such patients, making it an “addiction.”
Signs and Symptoms of Kleptomania
- Powerful urges to steal items that you may not necessarily need
- Feeling a sense of excitement leading up to the act of stealing
- A sense of pleasure and immense satisfaction while stealing
- A sudden descent of guilt after the theft has been made
- A sudden release of “pressure” after the theft has been done and a sudden “normalization” immediately after the act
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of kleptomania is unknown; however, most scientific theories revolve around sudden changes brought about in the brain. Most psychologically explained theories are linked to an imbalance of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Low levels of serotonin are common in people who find it difficult to curb their urges. Patients of Kleptomania also have lower than average levels of serotonin in their brain.
Dopamine is another neurotransmitter that may explain the “pleasure” some people derive from stealing. Dopamine secretion is linked to the pleasure centers of the brain. The more the dopamine secretion while performing an act, the more pleasure an individual derives from an activity. In most patients of Kleptomania, an increase in dopamine levels has been observed while stealing. Dopamine secretion also forces the brain to follow repetitive behavior towards the activity, thereby leading to addiction and compulsive behavior.
People with kleptomania may face consequences if their problems with impulse control are left untreated. Patients of Kleptomania are exposed to many risks including:
- Being convicted for stealing
- Being detested in society for stealing
- Being exposed to other mental disorders, usually leading to permanent mental illness
- Alienation from family and friends
- Suicidal ideation
- Distress and guilt arising out of amoral acts of stealing
- Strained friendships
Kleptomania can be treated at the psychological as well as pathological level. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found particularly useful in treating Kleptomania. CBT helps the patient identify the negative thoughts emanating while stealing and teaches the patient on how to curb these negative emotions to curb his urge to steal. Some of the CBT methods applied in treating kleptomania include covert sensitization, aversion therapy, and systematic desensitization.
The best method of treatment is to visit a rehabilitation facility that specializes in helping people suffering from kleptomania. It is important to contact a rehabilitation facility ahead of time to ensure that they have the treatment options needed available.