Kleptomania: what it is, symptoms and treatment


Kleptomania, also known as compulsive shoplifting, is a psychiatric disorder in which people cannot resist the urge to steal small objects, with a feeling of tension before the theft and relief and pleasure after the act.

In addition, it is common for the person to also feel a sense of guilt and remorse after the theft, as well as shame, which can make the person not seek psychological treatment, making the problem chronic.

It is possible to treat kleptomania through psychotherapy sessions, through the cognitive-behavioral therapy method, or with a psychiatrist, who will be able to assess the need to use any medication.

kleptomania symptoms

Kleptomania usually appears in late adolescence and early adulthood, and its diagnosis is made by a psychologist or psychiatrist in the presence of 4 symptoms:

  1. Frequent inability to resist urges to steal unnecessary objects.
  2. Growing sense of tension before theft;
  3. Pleasure or relief at the time of theft;
  4. Feelings of guilt, remorse, shame and depression after the theft.

Symptom number 1 differentiates the person with kleptomania from common thieves, as they steal objects without thinking about their value. In most cases of this disease, the stolen objects are never used or are even returned to the true owner.

It is important that kleptomania is identified and treated according to the guidelines of the psychologist or psychiatrist, as otherwise it can lead to psychological complications, such as depression and excessive anxiety, and complications in personal life, as the desire to commit theft gets in the way concentration and healthy relationships in the work environment and with the family.

Possible causes

Kleptomania does not have a definite cause, but appears to be related to mood disorders and a family history of alcoholism. In addition, these patients also usually present a decrease in the production of the hormone serotonin, which is the hormone of pleasure, and theft increases this hormone in the body, which can cause the addiction that is behind this disease.

How is the treatment done

To control the urge to steal it is usually advised to consult a psychologist, to try to identify the problem and initiate psychotherapy. However, it may also be advised by the psychologist to consult a psychiatrist, as there are medications that can also help to control the desire to steal. Some of these medications include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, or anxiety medications.

Psychotherapy, also called cognitive-behavioral therapy, is very important to develop methods that help the person to control and avoid theft, such as phrases that remind the guilt felt after the theft and the danger of stealing. However, this treatment is time-consuming and family support is important to help the patient to control his disease.

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