Characteristic Signs of Kleptomania
created by freepik

Kleptomania is a disorder that makes it difficult for sufferers to resist the urge to steal. People with kleptomania often steal in public places, but there are also shoplifters from friends’ homes.

Kleptomania belongs to the group of impulsive control disorders, namely disorders that make it difficult for sufferers to control their emotions and behaviour. This disorder is most common in youth, but it can also strike adults.

Kleptomania can make sufferers emotionally disturbed. If left unchecked, people with this disorder can experience serious mental disorders, even thinking about committing suicide.

Causes of Kleptomania

The exact cause of kleptomania is not known, but it is suspected that this condition is related to disorders of chemical compounds in the brain, such as:

  • Decreased levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates emotions and moods
  • Imbalance of the brain’s opioid system that makes the urge to steal irresistible
  • Disruption of the release of dopamine, a brain chemical compound that causes feelings of pleasure and addiction

Risk Factors for Kleptomania

Kleptomania is a rare emotional and behavioural disorder. There are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of experiencing this disorder, namely:

  • Have a family history of kleptomania, alcoholism, or drug abuse
  • Suffering from another mental disorder, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or personality disorder
  • Female gender

Symptoms of Kleptomania

Kleptomania is different from theft which is based on a criminal motive. Some of the symptoms and signs that characterize this disorder are:

1. Unable to resist the urge to steal

People with kleptomania usually can’t resist the urge to steal, even though the stolen item is something that is not of value or is not needed by the sufferer. In contrast to criminal theft which steals valuable and high-value items.

2. Feeling anxious when stealing

Patients also usually feel anxious and tense when they want to commit theft. After successfully stealing, the sufferer will feel happy and satisfied, but also feel guilty, sorry, ashamed, and afraid of being caught. Even so, the sufferer still can’t stop himself from repeating his actions.

3. Spontaneous stealing

Often people with kleptomania steal themselves spontaneously. In contrast to criminal theft which mostly involves other people and planning before committing the theft.

4. Do not use stolen items

People with kleptomania rarely even tend not to use the stolen goods for themselves. Sufferers usually throw away the stolen items or give them to friends or family.

5. Not stealing for revenge

The patient’s theft is not related to delusions or hallucinations. Sufferers also do not steal out of anger or revenge.

When to go to the doctor

Check with a psychiatrist if you experience the above symptoms. Although most people with kleptomania are reluctant to seek treatment for fear of being prosecuted, you should not worry, because a psychiatrist will not report you to the authorities and will instead help you deal with your problem.

If a friend or family member is suspected of having this disorder, don’t judge or blame them. Instead, reassure them that the behaviour is a mental disorder and invite them to consult a psychiatrist.

Diagnosis of Kleptomania

The doctor will ask about the urge to steal that the patient feels and what the patient feels before, during, and after stealing. The doctor will also ask what situations can trigger an urge to steal.

The diagnosis of kleptomania was made based on information provided directly by the patient or through a questionnaire filled out by the patient. However, the doctor may also perform blood tests or a head X-ray to make sure the patient’s symptoms are not caused by a head injury or brain disorder.

Treatment of Kleptomania

Kleptomania cannot be treated alone and will continue if not treated medically. To treat this disorder, doctors can use psychotherapy methods, administer drugs, or a combination of both. Here is the explanation:


The type of psychotherapy that is usually used to treat kleptomania is cognitive-behavioural therapy. Through this therapy, the patient will be given an overview of the actions taken and the consequences that may be received, including dealing with the authorities.

That way, patients are expected to be more aware that theft is a wrong action so that patients are more motivated not to steal. Patients will also be taught how to fight their strong urge to steal, for example with relaxation techniques.


For medication, your doctor may prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. This drug makes serotonin work more effectively, so it can stabilize the patient’s emotions.

Doctors can also give opioid antagonist drugs that work to reduce the urge to steal and the pleasure that comes after stealing.

Kleptomania must be treated on an ongoing basis, so as not to recur. If your symptoms improve but you have the urge to steal again, see a doctor immediately.

Complications of Kleptomania

If left untreated, kleptomania can cause many problems in the life of the sufferer, both in the family and work environment.

People with this disorder can feel guilty, ashamed, and even hate themselves. The feeling came from realizing that stealing was wrong, but he couldn’t resist the urge to steal.

Other conditions that are thought to result from this disorder include:

  • Depression
  • Addicted to alcohol
  • Drug abuse
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attempted suicide

Prevention of Kleptomania

As previously explained, the cause of kleptomania is not known with certainty. Therefore, it is not yet known how to prevent this behaviour disorder. However, early treatment can prevent kleptomania from worsening and reduce the risk of negative effects.