Kleptomania 787
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Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder characterized by a recurrent failure to resist stealing.


Kleptomania is a complex disorder characterized by repeated, failed attempts to stop stealing. It is often seen in patients who are chemically dependent or who have a coexisting mood, anxiety, or eating disorder. Other coexisting mental disorders may include major depression, panic attacks, social phobia , anorexia nervosa , bulimia nervosa , substance abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder . People with this disorder have an overwhelming urge to steal and get a thrill from doing so. The recurrent act of stealing may be restricted to specific objects and settings, but the affected person may or may not describe these special preferences. People with this disorder usually exhibit guilt after the theft.

Detection of kleptomania, even by significant others, is difficult and the disorder often proceeds undetected. There may be preferred objects and environments where theft occurs. One theory proposes that the thrill of stealing helps to alleviate symptoms in persons who are clinically depressed.

Causes and symptoms


The cause of kleptomania is unknown, although it may have a genetic component and may be transmitted among first-degree relatives. There also seems to be a strong propensity for kleptomania to coexist with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosa, and clinical depression.


The handbook used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . Published by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM contains diagnostic criteria and research findings for mental disorders. It is the primary reference for mental health professionals in the United States. The 2000 edition of this manual (fourth edition, text revision), known as the DSM-IV-TR, lists five diagnostic criteria for kleptomania:

  • • Repeated theft of objects that are unnecessary for either personal use or monetary value.
  • • Increasing tension immediately before the theft.
  • • Pleasure or relief upon committing the theft.
  • • The theft is not motivated by anger or vengeance, and is not caused by a delusion or hallucination.
  • • The behavior is not better accounted for by a conduct disorder , manic episode , or antisocial personality disorder.


Studies suggest that 0.6% of the general population may have this disorder and that it is more common in females. In patients who have histories of obsessive-compulsive disorder, some studies suggest a 7% correlation with kleptomania. Other studies have reported a particularly high (65%) correlation of kleptomania in patients with bulimia.


Diagnosing kleptomania is usually difficult since patients do not seek medical help for this complaint, and initial psychological assessments may not detect it. The disorder is often diagnosed when patients seek help for another reason, such as depression, bulimia, or for feeling emotionally unstable (labile) or unhappy in general (dysphoric). Initial psychological evaluations may detect a history of poor parenting, relationship conflicts, or acute stressors—abrupt occurrences that cause stress, such as moving from one home to another. The recurrent act of stealing may be restricted to specific objects and settings, but the patient may or may not describe these special preferences.


Once the disorder is suspected and verified by an extensive psychological interview, therapy is normally directed towards impulse control, as well as any accompanying mental disorder(s). Relapse prevention strategies, with a clear understanding of specific triggers, should be stressed. Treatment may include psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and rational emotive therapy . Recent studies have indicated that fluoxetine (Prozac) and naltrexone (Revia) may also be helpful.


Not much solid information is known about this disorder. Since it is not usually the presenting problem or chief complaint, it is frequently not even diagnosed. There are some case reports that document treatment success with antidepressant medications, although as with almost all psychological disorders, the outcomes vary.


There is little evidence concerning prevention. A healthy upbringing, positive intimate relationships, and management of acutely stressful situations may lower the incidence of kleptomania and coexisting disorders.



Tasman, Allan, Jerald Kay, and Jeffrey A. Lieberman, eds. Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Company, 1997.

Laith Farid Gulli, M.D.

Also read article about Kleptomania from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

kleptomania and you:
Kleptomania is a rare disorder that prevents those afflicted from resisting the urge to steal. People with the disorder are often called kleptos. Kleptos do not generally steal things of value. No cars, or jewelry, just small things like pens, paperclips, and small toys. Typical of psychological disorders, kleptos will find a pattern in their thieveries, and develop a preference for a certain item. Also typical of psychological disorders, those afflicted will often not realize they have committed the crime, until they empty their pockets, that is. The court system denounces kleptomania and tries most cases like shoplifting, despite the fact that regular thievery is for profit while kleptos generally steal things like spoons or pairs of panties, not exactly something you’d sell on eBay. Another difference is that most thieves premeditate their endeavors, while Kleptos act on impulse or subconsciously. Another thing that makes this a unique disorder is its co morbidity, which means it is likely to be coupled with other disorders, and oftentimes substance abuse. Causes of the disorder arise some speculation, with things like carbon monoxide exposure being blamed. Brain trauma also gets blame put upon it by kleptos. It is also assumed that the brain chemical serotonin is involved.
With that little bit of background knowledge, I will tell you how to diagnose kleptomania, describe some treatment, and tell you of its relations with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as used by a majority of professionals, now in its 4th edition, has a five point criterium for diagnosing kleptomania. They must be careful, because diagnosing a common theif with kleptomania is like handing him a get out of jail free card in some situations. Kleptos have definite urges to steal items with little monetary value that they have no psychological control over. A sense of tension before the grab is also experienced. After a theivery, feelings of pleasure, gratification or even pride are felt. The steal is not for anger or revenge, and is not brought on by a delusion or hallucination. Finally, the act cannot be better explained by another problem, specifically conduct disorder, manic episodes, or antisocial personality disorder. If a person meets this strict guideline, they may be treated in a variety of ways. For one, no matter what medication is provided, cognitive behavior therapy is often used in concordance. Basically the kleptos will keep a journal, be put through tests and activities, examined psychologically, and otherwise brainwashed out of their disorder. Meds include those used to combat addictive behaviors, and are found to be pretty effective. Opiod antagonists are what is used primarily. Meds to increase the seratonin levels also effect kleptomania in a positive way, meaning that antidepressants will cure theivery problems. Who knew? As I was saying earlier, kleptomania is slightly related to the ritualistic disorder called O.C.D. They both consist of involuntary actions that the victim does not necessarily welcome. There are also hoarding behaviors excercised by both population groups. Comorbidity rates do not supportor disprove this theory although the numbers do not point in support for those that think the conditions are related.
Kleptomania is as much a mystery as Atlantis, but with the knowledge we have we have been able to quell the urges but there is sadly no “cure”. As they say knowledge is power, so as we learn more about the condition itself, the closer we will get to ending it. As of right now, there is only so much we can do with psychotherapy.
I believe I am a kleptomaniac. For the last 8 years I have been going through a very emotional and stressful time. Depression brought on by my child taking away our grandchildren and many other family problems. I have on 3 occatons taken items from a store worth a few dollars. Things I did not need or want. I did not know why I did it until I was researching why people take things. I don't know whats going to happen but, I really need help.
I believe I could be a kleptomaniac. For years I have stolen random things from anyone and everyone. Most of the time it's money, sometimes needed and sometimes not. It's very difficult for me to even walk past an open purse without getting a strong desire to dig through it. On top of that I just recently got married and our finances are very tight and food is also pretty low. So in turn I find myself stealing pieces of pizza or other foods and drinks at work and stealing money from whomever I can. The only thing in this description of kleptomania that I don't fit into is the stealing of unneeded things. Usually I steal when I need something. Whether it be food or money to buy necessities. But at the same time it's really hard for me to resist stealing almost anything. Nightly I walk past the same pair of headphones at an empty cubicle at my work and have to talk myself out of taking them every time. I'm also very clever about my thefts. I usually think it all out and if there's a chance of me getting caught I typically don't go through with it. Does this sound like kleptomania to you or could it be something else? oh, and I also suffer from Disthymia which stemmed from manic depression when I was younger.
I believe my kleptomania started very very young. For some reason (someone told me this) I would take dollars out of my mothers purse on her dresser in her bedroom and hide them under our living room rug, don't know why just that a relative said when my parents installed a new carpet, they found a lot of money. I've had this problem all my life and no matter how hard I try not to, my head tells me to. I hate that I am like this and try to stay away from everyone as it seems to rear its' ugly head when I'm either stressed or very anxious and I'm so tired of it. Therapy is out of the question as I'd be bankrupt! Any suggestions??
what are some coping strategies for kleptomania? and how many peolpe in the world have it?
My 6 year old son has turned into a major theif. It started with stealing the piggy banks in the middle of the night and smashing them with a hammer to get to it's contents. Then it was sneaking out to my car at night to steal christmas presents out of the trunk of the car. He has stolen money from my mother. Taken the gameboy advances from my room and given them away to friends at school. Recently he stole his cousins wallet and pocket knife. Then it was my laptop, in which he was trying to download games onto at 11pm. And now its stealing from my friends. He took a nintendo Ds. He doesn't show any remorse he just gets upset when he gets caught. Im lost and don't know what to do. My son has ADHD, diagnosed with a General Mass Mood Disorder, with possibility of anxiety. He take Focalin XR, Tenex, and Abilify. His mood is under control as is the attention defecit. Every time I talk to the terapist and psychiatrist they tell me it is just a phase. If anyone has any ideas... Please. Im at the point of desperation.
i dont know if i want to comment, i know i have a problem and thats all il say. i dont want to say all the things i have done. im not really proud addmitting it but i do like feel proud at the time, like ive aquired yet another piece of clothing. There is this tore in town which i more or less can not walk past and not take anything. There are no tags on the clothes and what made it easier to do it, was because i used to work in this place. I knew i could get away with it and i did it, sometimes i wouldnt even need half of the clothing, and it wouldnt be like id sell it on, id keep it, as to me that is now mine, mine to have and i guess that may sound really bad, but it is implusive what i do. i can be on a normal day up town and then as soon as i walk past the shop i get the impulsive urge to do it, sometimes, not often i do find i have very little control over myself and other times i have no control at all. i used to do some stuff when i was younger and although it was done and my mother found out id taken money from her purse she got very upset and angry with me, i feel awful thinking about it because it was her birthday money, and then ever since that day she never trusted me, even if she would misplace a tenner the blame would be at me, i guess what else did i expect.. Now, i do have her trust but im doing it from this clothes shop and if i think about it, which has been pointed out to me by my partner, who caught me, he said reminding me, how my family would feel and therefore think of me. i know im a good person but i want to get this under control. I ve told my partner i need help, but he says id be in a mental insitution or worse prison.. i do need help, i do.
The person I am having this problem with is my daughter. She is no youngster. I'm sure this started years ago as far back as to when she was a preteen. She steals when the opportunity arrises. Sometimes really stupid things, things that family members or friends would just give her if she asked. Aspirin, ointment and other small items like hair clips, hair ties, emery boards. Once I found all these things stuffed into a torn opening in her beds box spring. At that time I pulled them out; showed them to her and put them away. A couple weeks later I found some of the same things again put into this space. You would think, why would she puts these back where I found them before? Anyways, I know she has a problem. She has had a drug problem as well, but, this wasn't always so, don't believe this is what causes her stealing as the stealing started way before the drug problem. However, what ever the disorder is probably what has urged her into both these problems. She also has been treated for depression. What I really need to know are there rehab programs out there that would be helpful in treatment? She has been through one rehab for drugs, but, I know this was not helpful in her situation. She did fine while she was in a group setting, outside this isn't the case.
My Grandson is 7 yrs old and continuously steals phones of any kind. He has stolen over 30 cell phones. Recently he stole a toy phone from Walmart. He also stole an old cell phone from his sitter. He has resorted to stealing remote controls and any other electronics. When asked the other day why he steals he said that his mind tells him to do it. He also said that he's too fast to be caught. He seems proud of his actions and shows little remorse. In fact, the day after he was disciplined for stealing recently he stole a phone and a remote. We just don't know what to do about this problem. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. If anyone can help please help me or at least point me in the right direction.
I feel asif I am a kleptomaniac. I seem to 'collect/steal' meaningless and pointless things. I fail to have good relationships with the majority of people, I always feel distant in one way or another, and I always feel different. I like to keep little things that don't mean anything, like someones bus ticket or someones hair band. I have been feeling 'sad' recently, the feeling hasn't exactly been going away, I've never thought of suicide. I just can't seem to get out of a depressive stage. some things do cheer me up but only for an hour or so...
Just kind of wanted some answers, and someone to talk to.
Hello all, My mother is constantly stealing my things such as clothes, anything small and pictures. I know she's been doing this for many many years and now have a lock with code on my door. She is always fidgeting her hands together and finds something to yell about .I've noticed this is because Ive taken action an watch everything. I have accused her , tried talking to her about it and even suggested she get help but she denies anything and says I'm the crazy one but I've found my stuff stashed in her closet. I Don't Know What To Do Or How To Get Her HELP. CAN ANYONE RELATE??

Grandchild steals phones, jewelry, money, cameras. Usually to give to friends. She stashes stuff down in the couch, like clippers, emory boards, pencils, notes, nail polish. She is repeatedly stealing from whomever she is living with at the time. Is now on probation for stealing and also has a problem with lieing. Gets very upset and turns on the tears and anger when she is caught in the act. Has not been diagnosed.
i have a daughter of 30 yrs old in jail right now for shoplifting, and says she doesnt know why sne does it.her husband had divorce papers served on her and she has 3 children. im very worried. im trying to understand this but having a hard time. i know she is very unhappy,her husband controlling, but i think its a trust issue from all the stealing. she is a good mother and loves her kids, so why wont she stop?
i know she has been using nerve pills to try to feel better which is not helping. i dont know how to help her.
Can Vyvance cause people to develop kleptomania? My son has been on this medication for about 8 months now. I think that this medication is the cause of him taking things that he has no use for. He has also picks with his skin until he starts to bleed. I spoke to the doctors about this and they have all tried to assure me that this is not a side affect.
However, my son did not steal until he started taking Vyvance. Prior to the Vyvance he was on Intuniv which I truly believe is what triggered the picking to begin but now has become worse since the Vyvance.
In the beginning I was pleased with the Intuniv because my son's handwriting became very legible. However, I noticed lots of sores on his skin that he had picked. (he's not aware of the picking)
What can I do or say as a parent to have the doctors to look in to this more in depth?
I shoplift almost at everystore i go to. I hve been caught and hve no reasoning wwhy i ddid it...ieven have had my daughter with me n got caught i dont think about the consunce at the time the imppulse is so strong to takk soomethingg even if i dont needd oor usee iit...i may b facin jjail time...i just goot caught agin and i ant help...i am better than this..im veerysaddened iput myelf and famiy thruu this
I have suffered depression,anxiety , and a pokie machine addiction for the last 4 years. In the last 6 months I have turned to stealing, not because I need the things I steal but for the adrenaline rush that comes with it. I can't walk into any shop without stealing at least 1 thing. It's gotten beyond a joke I have 3 wardrobes that are bulging at the seams containers under beds and many things in the shed. I have over 200 pairs of jeans and loads of other clothes. I keep telling myself that I will stop but I just can't. I'm 40 years old and have 2 teenage children one at home I worry that one day I will get caught and that would embarrass me to no end . I have money so it's not that I do it because I can't afford it it's the thrill I just can't stop no matter how many times I tell myself I will. I can't go to a shop without stealing but I would never steal from a friend or family so I guess that's one good thing for me but I know it's only a matter of time before I get caught but just can't seem to stop. Help
Paula Bearfield
My 46 year old brother has a big problem with stealing for years. I try to help, but its just gets me in the middle of his ilness. I can't let him keep disrespecting my home. I have to say that if the person is of to take care of himself or herself. Love them from a distance, beacause they need professional help. They also, have to make the decision to want to change.
I started stealing out of stores after my dad died from alcoholism when I was 10. I found his body. I was not allowed to grieve and when I stole my first item I got relief from my loss. I became a alcoholic,drug addict, bulimic, anorexic. I am not free from this desire to steal. I have a compulsive-obsessive personality. As I get older it is not as active. I also have manic-depression and it has calmed way down and the depressions are not as low or long. I have been to therapy and do work several 12 step programs. I have made financial amends but that did not release me from the addiction. It is in the way of my spiritual growth and my relationship with life.
Those who believe you have kleptomania and have not been diagnosed, there are a few other specifications.
1. You do not need the things you take- you do NOT steal because you are tight, you a have a biological problem (although this is only 1 theory and widely debated)
2. There is an irresistible urge past general control- you have random outbursts that are physically impossible to avoid, and ONLY through cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, aversion therapy, combination therapy, etc. can you sometimes over come this urge.
3. It usually is just a symptom of another problem- for example, there is a large correlation between depression and people with KM
Please stop self-diagnosing. It's inaccurate and can actually cause more harm to your mental state. Thank you.
I have stolen since a child. This week stolen from my friend of 27 years. She caught me. Now wants nothing to do with me. Don't blame her. Fine I steal when I am stressed or have been drinking. Didn't steal when life was ok. Now separated, home gone, family devided. Had a brain injury six years ago, feel in a weird way. This is the best thing that happened to me. Told my therapist today. Not going to drink anymore. Working on me. Going to therapy. Must learn my triggers. It is hard, don't know why I do it, but I'm going to learn and stop.
I don't know what to do. My Mother-in-law I belive is taking my things and my husbands things. Things have been coming up missing alot. What do I do? No one comes to our house except for the 4 of us. I need help with this. I tried confronting the situation and it was all bad. Nothing else makes any sencse. Thank you
I believe that I am a kleptomaniac . All the signs point to it except taking things that don't matter. I have taken money. A lot of it. I would get into this weird personality when I would do it . It would be like I was someone else when I did it. I would love the feeling and I couldn't resist the urges. But afterward I would feel guilty to the point I would consider suicide or I would stop eating . I would lock myself in my room and close the curtains and turn off the lights and cry. I would tell myself I was going to stop but I would do it again and again. I have been caught . I have also confessed to my crimes. I don't know if I have kleptomania or maybe I'm trying to blame something else for my stupid decisions .. I'm seeking help and a real diagnosis.
After reading a few testimonials, I know I am a kleptomanic! I can remember stealing from my parent's wallets and trinkets from any store since I was young. I'm 47 and am ready to beat this last "addiction" and smoking. I have suffered from clinical depression, schizoaffective disorder and anxiety, since I was young. I have trouble with intimate relationships, past drugs and alcohol and some jail time for a larceny. I feel strong and powerful thinking with fervor about can I pull this off, it's a rush! I feel guilt only when I take money from my friends or people close to me. I wanna confess so bad, but feel so much shame and scared because it's ruined many relationships. I don't want people to judge me, hate me, not trust me, but they shouldn't. Sometimes it's little stupid stuff, usually given as a token of my love. Other times it gets a little bigger, a real risk. I gotta stop, it is impulse control! Going to lay this last thang on my therapists lap. I even owe her an apology! This is sick!!!

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