What Causes Kleptomania and How to Treat It?

We speak of kleptomania when a person is unable to resist an urge to steal something. But what are the causes of kleptomania? Because, as a rule, the things they steal have no value or appeal for them, so later on they are likely to give them to somebody or even chuck them away. They don’t know why they decided to take possession of these things.

How to recognize kleptomania

The condition is characterized by the following symptoms:

  1. First, a person begins to feel anxious, uptight or even aroused – the feelings that build up the atmosphere
  2. Then an urge to steal comes on, it is obsessive and irresistible
  3. During stealing, the person feels that anxiety or tension fades away, and he or she becomes happy and satisfied
  4. When the theft has been committed, the person is besieged with degrading feelings of self-reproach, shame and fear of confrontation or persecution
  5. Once they are past the previous stage, the cycle begins anew

Neurotransmitters may be at fault

Such thieving urges could be influenced by the brain’s chemical serotonin. Serotonin is the one that is directly involved with people’s emotions and moods. Some scientists believe that a low level of serotonin in the brain may be linked with kleptomaniac tendencies.

Besides, there are brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters; many of the action-related signals sent to us by the brain are conducted by the network of neurotransmitters. Should this system admit defects, it might lead to the individual’s personality and reactions shifting. They give different reactions to stimuli.

When experiencing a remission from anxiety during stealing, kleptomaniacs may generate the neurotransmitter dopamine which creates enjoyable feelings. This often results in people trying to induce the release of dopamine when they can.

The influence of psychiatric problems

Kleptomania can also be brought on (or exacerbated) by a troubled mental state caused by abuse, repression or neglect early in life; by overuse of drugs, alcohol, or other substances; issues like stress, moodiness, eating disorders and suchlike.

According to another hypothesis, the urge to steal can be tied up with depression or obsessive-compulsive syndrome. A number of kleptomaniacs asserted that their urges are unwelcome and intrude upon their lives.

Generic factors

There are known cases when kleptomania was diagnosed in several members of the same family. It could develop or grow more pronounced following brain injury or certain brain disorders, for instance, epilepsy or dementia.

When is kleptomania more likely to break out?

Kleptomania can reveal itself at any age – from childhood through teen years into grown-up life. What can be stated with any certainty is that more women suffer from the disorder than there are men kleptomaniacs. A definite risk group comprises women past 30 who have mental ailments.

Are there things kleptomaniacs find especially attractive?

No kleptomaniac ever steals to line his or her pockets or to take something out on the wronged individual. The object is immaterial to them; they do it for the very act. As soon as they gained possession of whatever came their way, they are satisfied. They tend to go for small, portable things which are not very valuable.

How can the condition be treated?

The common means to treat kleptomania embraces different approaches:

Medicinal approach. Actually, there exist no medications for kleptomania that were approved by FDA, as well as a dearth of scientific research on the subject. Nevertheless, there are medications that can be employed with due regard to the particular situation and psychiatric issues involved, substance abuse or depression, to name but a few.

The medication naltrexone, which is an opioid antagonist used to treat addiction, may serve to weaken onsets of stealing urges and the pleasure subsequent to stealing.

If depression is heavily involved, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) can be used as an antidepressant.

Psychosocial approach. To assist with the social side of the problem, sufferers can turn to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is a psycho-social intervention designed to help the individual pin down unwelcome, unacceptable urges and behaviors and eventually let go of them in favor of healthy, appropriate ones. Some CBT techniques can be efficacious in trying to hold kleptomania urges in check.

Once a treatment process is decided upon, the thing is to adhere to it. When a stealing urge reveals itself, the individual ought to seek help from their mental health professional or a support group. Sometimes it is easier to have a trusted friend or family member who can help the kleptomaniac get over the urge.