Kleptomania is defined as the “recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal objects that are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value.” Kleptomaniacs often feel an increase in tension immediately before stealing something, and then feel pleasure, gratification, or relief during the theft. This stealing is not committed in order to express anger or vengeance, and is also not done in response to a delusion or a hallucination.
Kleptomania is a type of impulse control disorder. This is a disorder that is characterized by problems with emotional or behavioral self-control. People with kleptomania also tend to keep quiet about their mental illness due to the fact that they are scared to seek mental health and treatment.
• Inability to resist powerful urges to steal items that you don’t need.
• Feeling increased tension or anxiety leading up to the theft.
• Feeling pleasure, relief or gratification while stealing.
• Feeling terrible guilt, remorse, self-loathing, shame or fear of arrest after the theft.
• Return of the urges and a repetition of the kleptomania cycle.
People with kleptomania often steal because the urge is so powerful that they can’t resist it – they don’t steal for personal gain and the objects they steal have no personal significance or value. These stolen objects are typically stored away in a secret location, and are sometimes gifted to other people or returned to where they were stolen from.
There is no specific / FDA-approved medication to treat kleptomania, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven to help people overcome their urges to steal.
Kleptomania is one of the more serious disorders due to the fact that many people who have kleptomania feel uncomfortable discussing their mental illness, or seeking any mental health care, therefore it often goes un-noticed and untreated until the person is caught stealing, at which point serious consequences can result.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. It can include the following techniques to help you overcome kleptomania urges:
• Covert sensitization: in which you picture yourself stealing and then facing negative consequences, such as being caught.
• Aversion therapy: you practice mildly painful techniques, such as holding your breath until you become uncomfortable, when you get an urge to steal.
• Systematic desensitization: you practice relaxation techniques and picture yourself controlling urges to steal.