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Kleptomania is a mental health disease in which a person experiences an overwhelming and uncontrollable desire to steal items. People with this disease know that stealing is wrong and could get them in trouble, but they cannot stop themselves.

Kleptomaniacs do not steal because of a lack of willpower, self-control, or a defect in their character. Instead, this is a physical condition in which a person cannot resist the urge to steal. Kleptomaniacs frequently experience remorse, humiliation, or stress due to their theft. Many people try to compensate for this by returning products, donating them to charity, or producing and paying for the items later.


The fundamental etiology of Kleptomania is unknown to doctors. They believe biochemical and neurological abnormalities in the brain cause it. An imbalance in the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine can cause Kleptomania.

Neurotransmitters are molecules that allow communication between brain areas. If they are out of balance, the brain may not respond to cravings as well as it should.

Other probable Kleptomania causes include stress and trauma.

Trauma, especially at a young age, may precipitate the development of Kleptomania and other impulse control disorders.

Stress adds to the loss of impulse control, and while it may not directly cause Kleptomania, it may exacerbate the disorder.

Genetics may also be involved. If a person has a family member who suffers from Kleptomania, they are more likely to develop the illness themselves.


Kleptomania symptoms may include: 

  • Inability to resist intense urges to steal items you don’t need
  • Feelings of increased tension, anxiety, or arousal before the theft
  • Feelings of pleasure, relief, or satisfaction while stealing
  • Feelings of terrible guilt, remorse, self-loathing, shame, or fear of arrest after the theft


A person must meet five criteria before a healthcare provider can diagnose Kleptomania:

  • Repeated failures to refrain from stealing, and the stolen objects were not taken because someone needed them or required anything essential to trade or exchange for money.
  • Tension or eagerness before stealing.
  • Immediately feel pleasant emotions (such as relief or joy) or “high” after stealing.
  • The act of stealing is not an emotional reaction (done out of rage or vengeance), nor is it the result of a delusion (a firmly held erroneous belief) or a hallucination.

There is no better explanation for the behavior than another mental health issue, such as conduct disorder, manic behavior, or antisocial personality disorder.


There is no standard Kleptomania treatment, and research into which treatments work best is limited. This is partly because people with Kleptomania rarely seek treatment independently, making exploring potential remedies more challenging.

The most likely therapies are divided into two categories:

  • Medication:
    Opioid antagonists (medicines that counteract the effects of opioids) are one of the first-line therapy choices. There is research to back up their usefulness. These drugs can help people resist the impulse to steal by blocking the good emotions they get when they steal. Antidepressants, seizure medicines, and lithium are all viable therapies.
  • Psychotherapy:
    This type of treatment, also known as mental health therapy or behavioral therapy, typically entails assisting a person in understanding why they do certain things and helping them develop ways to change or avoid those behaviors. Kleptomania psychotherapy can take numerous forms, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and hypnosis.

When To See A Doctor

Seek medical attention if you are unable to stop shoplifting or stealing. Many persons with Kleptomania do not seek therapy because they are terrified of being arrested or imprisoned. A mental health provider, on the other hand, is unlikely to disclose your thefts to the police.

Some people seek medical attention because they are terrified of being caught and facing legal consequences. Or they’ve already been arrested and are legally obligated to get therapy.


This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about Kleptomania or any other medical condition, please see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.