Kleptomania is distinguished from shoplifting or ordinary theft , as shoplifters and thieves generally steal for monetary value, or associated gains and usually display intent or premeditation, while people with kleptomania aren’t necessarily contemplating the value of the items they steal or even the theft until they are compulsed. Most person’s with this disorder seem to be women; their average age is about 35 and the duration of illness is roughly 16 years. Kleptomania has several different treatments. Behavior modification therapy and family therapy may be used to treat kleptomaniacs.
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. This diagnosis is one of the oldest clinical diagnoses and can be traced back over 200 years; however, it is also overused as less than 1 out of 20 shoplifters can be diagnosed with this disorder though they may claim to have kleptomania in attempt to avoid prosecution. Onset is often in childhood and it tends to be chronic (Morrison, 1995).
Causes of Kleptomania
Most person’s with this disorder seem to be women; their average age is about 35 and the duration of illness is roughly 16 years. Some individuals report the onset of kleptomania as early as age five. While we do not know the causes of kleptomania, there is indirect evidence linking it with abnormalities in the brain chemical serotonin. Stressors such as major losses may also precipitate kleptomanic behavior.
Signs and Symptoms of Kleptomania
Sign and symptoms of Kleptomania
These patients have an irresistible inclination to steal. Often they throw away the stolen goods. They are mostly interested in the kick of the stealing itself. Although psychiatrists consider kleptomania as a disease, this is not a legal excuse in front of an American or British court.
Treatment of Kleptomania
Kleptomania has several different treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is recommended as an adjuvant to medication.
Some medications that are used for people diagnosed with kleptomania are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, mood stabilizers and opioid antagonists. The only open-trial of medication for kleptomania showed naltrexone significantly reduced the intensity of urges to steal, stealing thoughts and stealing behavior. A similar three year follow-up of patients treated only with naltrexone showed a clinically significant reduction in kleptomanic behavior.