You are on page 1of 5


Kleptomaniac is the condition of not being able to resist the urge to collect or
hoard things. People with this disorder are compelled to steal things,
generally objects of little or no significant value, such as pens, paper clips,
tape, chopsticks, traffic cones, signs, eyeliner, mascara, drugs and small
toys. Some kleptomaniac is derived from the Greek word kleptein means to
steal. Kleptomaniac was first officially recognized in the US as a mental
disorder in the case of the state of California V. Douglas Jones.

Kleptomaniac 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 kleptomaniacs are
not necessarily contemplating the value of the items they steal or even the
theft until they are compelled without motive. Of all reported shoplifting, less
than 5% are actually committed by kleptomaniacs. This disorder usually
manifests during puberty and, in some cases, may never stop and lasts
throughout the person’s life.

People with this disorder are likely to have a comorbid condition, specifically
paranoid, schizoid or borderline personality disorder. Kleptomaniac can occur
after traumatic brain injury and carbon monoxide poisoning. The other
impulse control disorders like kleptomaniac are pyromania-obsession with
fire/fire starting, Trichotillomaniac- pulling out hair, Dermatillomania- pulling
out skin and pathological gambling. Two Swiss clinicians cite one of their
cases as evidence that “kleptomaniac is a rare variant of impulse-control
disorder that can be caused by right orbitomedial prefrontal damage.”

Thomas Nyffeler and Marianne Regard say their patient, a 32-year-old man,
developed kleptomaniac weeks after undergoing an operation at age 13 to
remove a tumor. Prior to the surgery, they say, “the patient had never had
an impulse to steal or to plan a theft.” He also showed evidence of post-
surgery deficits in concentration, visual processing, and conceptual thinking,
as well as abnormal talkativeness and preoccupations. Despite
hospitalizations and treatment with serotonin reuptake inhibitors ( which
appear to reduce kleptomaniac in some cases), the man continued to steal
pencils, stamps, and other items of little value, and was arrested and
convicted several times. Medical evaluation, the researchers say, revealed
impairments consistent with hemisphere frontotemporal dysfunction.
A recent survey of the literature revealed that 77 percent of all the reported
cases of kleptomaniac involved females, a fact that is subject to various
explanations. “Men with impulse control problems tend toward pyromania,
pathological gambling and explosive behavior,” Dr. Goldman says. “Women
tend toward kleptomaniac and trichotillomania [compulsive pulling out of
hair]. But there are more male kleptomaniacs than there might seem. A guy
who steals bicycles and trucks, and abandons them-he’s in jail. He’s not
called a kleptomaniac, but he probably is one.” On other hand, a 61 year old
divorcee who repeatedly steals designer blouses from Neiman Marcus, and
gets caught, is in treatment-not in San Quentin.

Kleptomania news is not common, but you might see an article from time to
time about a wealthy celebrity who was arrested for shoplifting. Oddly,
people who are caught stealing from a store don't appear reluctant to do it
again, nor do they steal because they can't afford to purchase the items they
took. An irresistible urge to steal can actually be a case of kleptomania.
Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder characterized by the
uncontrollable desire to steal things that you don’t want or need, and that
usually have little value. It is characterized by great tension before the act,
great euphoria during the act and great shame after the act. Many
kleptomaniacs live a double life of shame and guilt. A person diagnosed with
kleptomania is different from a shoplifter in that the action is usually not
planned and there is no financial motivation. A kleptomaniac steals for the
thrill, and is unable to resist the impulse to take something without paying
for it.

Kleptomaniac in young children is very traumatizing for the parents. Knowing

a few kleptomania symptoms will help to deal with kleptomaniac better.
They get tensed and excited, at the same time, before and during stealing.
They feel euphoric after they’ve stolen the object of their affection. A
kleptomaniac does not need an accomplice. Hence they never encourage
companions. The feelings of range, anger or revenge do not exist while
stealing. A kleptomaniac does not suffer from any hallucinations or is not a

A desire to steal has its roots in an inferiority complex. Often, a few children
feel deprived or feel the need to show off what does not belong to them. In
either of the cases, a child is bound to steal. In cases, where children cannot
afford a certain item, stealing becomes their only source of acquiring it.
However, if a child steals once, it does not mean that child is a kleptomaniac
or a criminal. As a part of growing up, a child may experiment with the limits.
However, once children are provided with necessary education regarding
consequences of stealing, the desire to steal disappears.

Kleptomaniac is usually thought of as a part of the obsessive-compulsive

disorder spectrum, although emerging evidence suggests that it may be
more similar to additive and mood disorders. In a particular, this disorder is
frequently co-morbid with substance use disorders, and it is common for
individuals with kleptomaniac to have first-degree relatives who suffer from a
substance use disorders.

While we don’t know the cause of kleptomaniac, a genetic link is suspected

and the condition could very well be associated with obsessive compulsive
disorder. Many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia and
clinical depression are also kleptomaniacs. Other possible causes include
abnormalities in the brain chemical serotonin and traumatic or extremely
stressful events. Finding a cause or tracing a patient’s history can be
challenging since few kleptomaniacs seek treatment for the disorders out of

Some medications that are used for possible diagnosed with kleptomaniac
are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, mood stabilizers and antagonists.
The only open-trial of medication for kleptomaniac 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 kleptomaniac

Doctors in the US have been treating diagnosed kleptomaniacs with mood-

altering drugs such as Prozac and Seroxat, on the presumption that
outbursts could be triggered by changes in the levels of serotonin in the
brain, much likely to affect a long- term cure. Discussing the disorders with
others with the same condition was noted to help.

Kleptomaniac is frequently thought of as being a part of obsessive-

compulsive disorder (OCD), since the irresistible and uncontrollable actions
are similar to the frequently excessive, unnecessary and unwanted rituals of
OCD. Some individuals with kleptomaniac demonstrate hoarding symptoms
that resemble those with OCD.

Prevalence rates between the two disorders do not demonstrate a strong

relationship. Studies examining the comorbidity of OCD in subjects with
kleptomaniac have inconsistent results, with some showing a relatively high co-
occurrence (455-60%) while others demonstrate low rates (0%-6.5%0. Similarly,
when rates of kleptomaniac have been examined in subjects with OCD, a relatively
low co-occurrence was found (2.2%-5.9%).

Many people that steal in some way or other will have less difficulty moving to
different crimes. According to study by Ernst & Young LLP and Ipsos-Reid in 2002,
businesses can lose 20 percent of every dollar earned. Twenty percent of the
employees citied in that study said they were aware of fraud at their companies and
the most common form was expense account Fraud. Of the 20 percent of the
people in the know, 37 percent even knew about theft of office items. What’s
perhaps even worse; 16 percent knew employees who claimed extra hours worked
and 7 percent said they knew people who inflated their expense accounts.

Little research exists examining the treatment of kleptomania, particularly in men.

This case study illustrates the treatment of a male client with kleptomania in which
depression, suicidal ideation, and potential legal complications were present.
Strategies included covert sensitization, behavioral chaining, problem solving,
cognitive restructuring, and use of homework. On completion of treatment,
symptoms of depression and kleptomania had decreased significantly. At 16-
weekfollo w-up, the client reported continued remission of kleptomania and
depressive symptoms. Treatment complications are discussed, and
recommendations to clinicians are made.

Kleptomaniac has several different treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is

recommended as adjuvant to medication. Kleptomaniac stems from an underlying
psychological problem such as stress, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse
and other psychological disorders. Counseling is the first step towards dealing with
kleptomaniac children. Kleptomaniac steals a child’s dignity and brands him/her as
a criminal. They lose out on friends and almost importantly the trust of people
around them. Parents need to understand that the child requires special care and
attention. Try and engage your child in some physical activity. This will distract
him/her from the act of stealing. The younger the child, the easier it is to deal with
the problem.

Although no complete cure for kleptomaniac has been found, treatment is highly
recommended to help curb the instinct to steal. Treatment usually includes
counseling and sometimes drug therapy. Prozac has been found to be useful
because it alters levels of serotonin, a brain chemical responsible for mood

Therapy for impulse control and relapse prevention can help identify triggers and
thought processes involved in compulsive behavior. For example, cognitive
behavioral therapy is used to tie the thought process to the behavior. By doing this,
a kleptomaniac can become aware of impulses and be able to “think his or her way
out of it” by finding ways to resist the impulse. While kleptomaniac may be easy
when it is occurring, it is difficult to diagnose. Not only does the disorder often occur
as a side effect of another disorder, the person is usually hesitant to admit
kleptomaniac behavior to the physician or counselor.