Kleptomania Under Scope: Why Do Some People Have It?


Kleptomania is one of those disorders that is commonly ridiculed, and is often the butt of a lot of jokes on TV and in movies. However, kleptomania is no laughing matter, as it is an impulse-control disorder that is related to similar mental illnesses such as eating disorders. In fact, kleptomaniacs typically have other problems that lead to the kleptomania itself, and often have issues with substance abuse or self-control.

Imagine you go to a clothing store, you see a beautiful dress that you wish to buy; however, it is very expensive, so do you try to steal it?

No, right? Well, people with kleptomania do. And the reason is more complicated than it seems.

If we put a proper definition:

Kleptomania is a mental disorder in which a person experiences strong impulses or urges to steal things or shoplift, without thinking of the consequences.

Kleptomaniacs cannot control their urge to steal, even if they are very well aware that it may have dangerous consequences.

Many a times, people with kleptomania steal things of insignificant value, just to satisfy their urges.

Kleptomania is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder and certain eating disorders.

There is no universal consensus among psychologists, though many view kleptomania as being an impulse-control problem caused by intrusive and obsessive thoughts about performing the act of stealing.

A fact about kleptomania is that the affected people often steal things that they do not even need because they need to satisfy their impulses immediately.

The motivational factor for kleptomaniacs is the sense of pleasure or relief they achieve immediately after a successful stealing session.

This sense of pleasure or relief is triggered by the chemical changes that occur in their brain due to the adrenaline rush.

One of the main symptoms of kleptomania is suffering from extreme anxiety and tension, until the theft is successfully committed.

Another symptom of kleptomania is, experiencing a great sense of shame, remorse and self-hate after the act has been committed.

It is noted that many kleptomaniacs belong to fairly wealthy families or have good jobs that actually do not require them to steal things.

Cognitive behavioral therapy appears to help.

As with obsessive-compulsive disorder, cognitive behavior therapy appears to have an effect on sufferers and can in fact help them become more conscious of their thoughts and thus learn to curb the behavior.

As was common with other mental illnesses in the late 19th century and early 20th century, this impulse-control disorder was thought to be caused by reproductive issues in women. This was later proven to be false.

There is a difference between a thief who has complete control over his/her actions and a person with kleptomania who has no control over his/her urges to take things illegally.

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