Kleptomania: Is it a disease and does it have a cure?

Kleptomaniacs steal impulsively with no intent to profit from the stolen items. Photo: Shutterstock/springtime78

An impulsive, recurrent and uncontrollable urge to steal – that too items not needed for personal use or their monetary value. This condition is called Kleptomania. Individuals who are kleptomaniac often experience tension or anxiety before committing the theft and a sense of relief or gratification during or after the act. Despite potential legal consequences and the awareness that the behavior is wrong, individuals with kleptomania find it difficult to resist the impulse to steal. Does it mean it is a disease?

Is it a disease?
Kleptomania is not considered a disease, but a type of impulse control disorder, which is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association. However, it is not the same as acts like shoplifting. Kleptomaniacs steal impulsively with no intent to profit from the stolen items.

What causes kleptomania?
Factors like abnormalities in brain chemistry or function, genetic predisposition - Individuals with a family history of impulse control disorders or addiction - and psychological factors like stress may contribute to developing the disorder. Environmental influences, like exposure to theft during childhood or adolescence, can also lead to it. Traumatic experiences or stressful life events may also trigger or exacerbate symptoms of the disorder. It can also occur alongside other mental health issues like depression, anxiety and substance use disorders

How to cure it?
Kleptomania is treated through psychotherapy, ognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication where required. Joining support groups or attending group therapy sessions, avoiding situations or triggers that may lead to stealing, developing healthy stress-management techniques, maintaining a structured daily routine, and engaging in activities that promote relaxation and fulfillment can also help reduce the likelihood of impulsive stealing behaviors.

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