How Do You Fix Kleptomania?

Medically Reviewed on 12/16/2021
what causes kleptomania?
There is no cure for kleptomania; however, patients can manage the mental illness through counseling and behavioral modification techniques.

Kleptomania is a psychological illness characterized by an uncontrollable and compulsive desire to steal. Kleptomania has no cure but can be managed in patients through counseling and behavioral modification techniques.

Though it is difficult to treat kleptomania, people who suffer from it must seek medical attention, which usually consists of a combination of psychotherapy and drugs that target both triggers and causes.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy help replaces negative habits and ideas with good ones. Family, couples, and psychodynamic therapies are some other therapeutic modalities.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy utilizes the following:

  • Covert sensitization: The person imagines themselves as stealing something and subsequently suffer the consequences, such as being caught.
  • Systemic desensitization: The person practices relaxation methods and imagines themselves resisting the impulse to steal.
  • Aversion therapy: When a person has an impulse to steal, they practice mildly uncomfortable strategies, such as holding their breath until they become uncomfortable.


Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants, and opioid receptor antagonists can all help slow down urges to compulsively steal.

Self-help groups

People suffering from kleptomania may benefit from joining self-help groups. These could help them overcome or manage the disorder.

What is kleptomania?

Kleptomania is a form of impulse control disorder in psychiatry, which is defined by difficulties with emotional or behavioral self-control. The individual with the illness has difficulty resisting the urge to commit behaviors that are harmful to themselves or others. 

Kleptomaniacs have an irresistible and repeated desire to steal even though there is no necessity, or they can afford the stolen objects. It is an uncommon yet dangerous mental illness.

Kleptomaniacs are scared to seek mental health therapy and endure lives of hidden shame. Although there is no cure for kleptomania, medicines or talk therapy (psychotherapy) may aid in breaking the pattern of obsessive stealing.

5 probable causes of kleptomania

The exact cause or trigger of kleptomania is unknown, but it may be associated with certain risk factors, such as the following:

  1. Genetics
  2. Neurotransmitters
    • The issue might be related to serotonin, a brain chemical that governs an individual's moods and emotions. It has been proposed that kleptomania symptoms are caused by decreased serotonin levels in the brain.
    • Most of the messages that the brain sends for various activities are controlled by a complicated network of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Any flaw in this signaling might create personality changes and alterations in how an individual reacts to ordinary events.
    • Another neurotransmitter, dopamine, may be released because of theft. Dopamine produces pleasure sensations, and some people crave this rewarding sensation again.
  3. Brain damage
    • Illnesses, such as dementia and epilepsy, as well as brain damage caused by trauma, may lead to kleptomaniac tendencies.
  4. Coexisting mental illness
    • Other factors connected with kleptomania include anxiety caused by maltreatment, neglect, sexual repression or abuse during childhood, substance misuse (such as alcohol, smoking, and narcotics) mood swings, stress, and eating disorders.
    • This disease could be connected to obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression. Many people who suffer from kleptomania describe their cravings as unwelcome and persistent thoughts.
  5. Gender-related
    • Research suggests that kleptomania is more frequent in women than in males. Women in their late 30s with mental illnesses are more prone to have this tendency.

What are the symptoms of kleptomania?

The symptoms of kleptomania include:

  • A strong desire to take items that one does not require
  • Feelings of heightened stress, worry, or arousal before the theft
  • Pleasure or gratification during the theft
  • Feelings of regret or embarrassment following the theft
  • Though remorseful after a theft, the pleasure urges one to repeat the act

Kleptomaniacs frequently have various forms of disorders that influence their mood, anxiety, and impulse control. Feelings, such as shame, regret, and stress, which kleptomaniacs experience may exacerbate or precipitate comorbidities.

To summarize, kleptomania is considered a rare condition because people with it may never seek treatment or are arrested after several crimes, remaining undiagnosed.

  • Kleptomania usually onsets at the age of 17 years, however, it may be present at all ages.
  • Symptoms have been recorded in children as young as five years old, whereas some people claim they did not discover symptoms until they were 55 years old.
  • Some kleptomaniacs are not even aware that they are stealing until it is too late.


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Medically Reviewed on 12/16/2021
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Cleveland Clinic. Kleptomania.

Grant JE, Potenza MN. Gender-related differences in individuals seeking treatment for kleptomania. CNS Spectr. 2008;13(3):235-245.

Middlesex Health. Kleptomania.