What is Kleptomania: What Is It & How To Treat It?

Last Update on June 22, 2022 : Published on March 27, 2021

An irresistible urge of stealing things could be directly termed as kleptomania, to be precise. Those dealing with it would steal items even if they do not need it, could even afford or may not find any high monetary value. Kleptomaniacs take this action only to satiate the tension inside their mind.

Interestingly, kleptomania is more common in women than men and often arises during adolescence. As we know that stealing could lead you to face legal consequences like arrest, trial or incarceration, it is best for an individual to diagnose the disorder and get themselves treated.

Also Read: List of Mental Health Disorders & All You Need To Know!

What Are Signs & Symptoms Of Kleptomania?

According to American Psychiatric Association(APA), kleptomania is characterized by inability to stop oneself from stealing things around. Individuals with such conditions usually build tension inside themselves right before stealing and release tension during the stealing process. Stealing gives them pleasure, relief and gratification which they enjoy for the time being.

Even though theft cuts out tension within an individual, he or she may experience shame, remorse and guilt within themselves. It is also to be noted that kleptomaniacs do not perform this task for personal gain or gain financial incentive but to satisfy their mental health.

Failure in resisting urge to stealSome of them would store items in an isolated place where no one could reach them while some would just give away to others or even return back to the place it was stolen from.

Some other symptoms of kleptomania include:

  • Stealing those items which doesn’t have a monetary value
  • The instant relief and satisfaction after the theft
  • Lack of explanation for the theft
  • An urge to return the items and uncontrollable emotion to steal them again
  • Stealing is not done out of anger, revenge or personal gain

Is There A Difference Between Kleptomania & Shoplifting?

Yes! Shoplifting is a deliberate attempt to steal items from a location with an idea of gaining monetary value. Moreover, shoplifters attempt to steal courageously and show it as an act of courage.

However, kleptomaniacs have no such explanation about why they steal repeatedly and can’t find any excuse for doing so, in case they are caught red handed.

What Could Be The Possible Causes Of Kleptomania?

Researchers haven’t found the exact cause of kleptomania but it has been suggested that both genetic and environmental factors play an essential role in the same. Some possible explanations are:

1. Biological Approach:

One can blame dysregulation of certain neurotransmitters for this specific behavior. The chances are having low serotonin levels  in the brain becomes a reason. Similarly, kleptomania has been seen in people who have dysfunction in the frontal lobe of the brain. In one of the cases, it has also resulted in dizziness, aggression and even memory loss.

2. Psychoanalytic Approach:

Some other ways to explain this compulsive behavior is  compensation for some early loss or neglect. When a person is treated for this behavior, they are asked about the motivation hidden behind.

3. Cognitive-Behavioral Approach:

This approach explains that kleptomania may begin when a person is explained positively about stealing. Once he could see no negative consequences of his or her action, they will repeat the act again. Slowly, this action becomes stronger and the person is likely to continue the act as a means of relieving stress.

4. Existing Disorders:

If someone is already facing mental disorders like anxiety, substance abuse, mood swings, stress or eating disorder, kleptomania may be associated with the condition.

5. Genetics:

If some of the family members are already affected with kleptomaniac conditions or have brain disorders like dementia, epilepsy then it is possible to transfer the disorder through genes.

Treatment Of Kleptomania:

There are various treatments for kleptomania including:

1. Psychotherapy:

Since it’s a behavioral pattern that needs to be controlled,  cognitive behavioral therapy helps a person in managing symptoms of kleptomania. This therapy is focused on controlling thoughts and behaviors which contribute in managing the symptoms.

  • Systematic desensitization: It teaches you relaxation techniques that lets you control the urge of stealing.
  • Covert sensitization: It lets you think about negative consequences like getting arrested, facing imprisonment, etc. which makes you avoid the act of stealing.

2. Medications:

Certain antidepressants have proved to be effective in treatment of kleptomania along with cognitive behavioral therapy. Medications are prescribed by experts in order to balance the brain chemistry which causes urge to steal.


Understand that kleptomania is a serious psychiatric condition and must be treated with care before it brings an impact on a person’s regular functioning. Since it can even land you in legal problems, it’s better to communicate to an expert by either visiting them in-person or by emailing it to us at info@calmsage.com.

About The Author

Akanksha Soni
Akanksha Soni

Akanksha is an active lifestyle blogger and writer at Calmsage. She has learnt various lessons on happiness and methods to fight depression through 'Gurus' as well as own experiences. An ardent practitioner of Yoga and meditation, she keeps traveling, writes and interacts with people to feel alive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

As Seen On