ABC Medical Center > Kleptomania

What is Kleptomania?

21:53 - 4 May , 2021


It is a rare mental illness, but that can have serious consequences, in which the person has the uncontrollable impulse to steal unnecessary things of little value, which affects their emotional health and their personal, family, and professional environment.

Kleptomania is a compulsive disorder characterized by experiencing difficulties to control emotions and behaviors.

Although it is an incurable disease, it can be controlled through psychotherapy and medications that help reduce the impulse or desire to compulsively steal.

The more timely the diagnosis and treatment, the less damage and complications. The origin of kleptomania remains a mystery, however, some research considers that some brain changes can trigger it, including:

  • Low levels of serotonin, which is the chemical that helps regulate emotions and mood.
  • Release of dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter of pleasant feelings.
  • Imbalances in the opioid system that can trigger urges.

Potential risks:

Some factors have been identified that, alone or combined, may contribute to the development of this disorder:

  • Having used drugs or alcohol for a long time.
  • Suffering from another mental illness such as bipolarity or eating, anxiety, or personality disorders.

In case of not receiving treatment, complications begin to appear seriously affecting the person’s life, such as:

  • Dropping school and jobs.
  • Alcoholism and drug addiction.
  • Social and family isolation.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Guilt, humiliation, shame.
  • Physical health complications.
  • Other compulsive disorders such as gambling and consumerism.
  • Anxiety and depression episodes that progressively increase in frequency and intensity.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Legal problems due to theft.
  • Eating or personality disorders.

Signs and symptoms Kleptomania

  • Excitement before stealing.
  • Irresistible urge to steal things that are not required.
  • Relief or pleasure in stealing.
  • Guilt, remorse, hatred, and shame towards oneself.
  • Continuous and uncontrollable desires to continue stealing.
  • Fear of being arrested after stealing.

Those who suffer from kleptomania steal impulsively and spontaneously, generally in stores or public places, although they can also do so at friends’ or acquaintances’ homes. Stolen objects have no value and are not required, so they can be hidden, given away, donated, or returned to the place where they were extracted.

Kleptomania usually appears in adolescence or youth, but it can also manifest in adulthood.

Diagnosis and treatment Kleptomania

The doctor, in addition to analyzing your symptoms and medical history, will perform a physical examination and psychological studies to measure impulse control through various tests and questions.

Once the diagnosis is established, the lifetime treatment to be followed will be decided to control the symptoms and help the patient have a normal life as possible, which includes drugs, psychotherapy, and self-help groups.

It is very important to seek support to treat kleptomania because it is difficult to overcome alone, as the urge to steal will increase and trigger multiple problems.

At the Neurological Center, a select group of highly trained and certified doctors in the various neurological specialties are ready to assist you with the quality and warmth that characterizes us. 

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