What is Kleptomania?

What is Kleptomania?
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 21-03-2023

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“A Kleptomaniac is a person who helps himself because he can’t help himself”

The words "kleptomania" and "mania" are two Greek words that mean "deranged desire, compulsion," respectively. The definition closely corresponds to "compulsive stealing" or "compulsion to steal". It is essential to know what is Kleptomania like and how it feels before trying to comprehend it conceptually. Consider the case of the 60-year-old Indian divorcee who began exhibiting Kleptomania signs around the time she became 30. She has many theft offenses. She had persistent depressive disorder following which stealing continued. The strong urge and temptations were the main reasons for stealing without paying and feeling momentarily joyful and experiencing pleasure. The stolen things were never used by her afterward.  Shoplifting improved her depression as it helped with temporary relief, and uplifted her mood. However, she felt guilty till she threw or gave it. She used to acknowledge that her shoplifting usually occurred when she had a low mood (Saluja et al., 2014).

Kleptomania Definition: The term kleptomania is a rare mental health illness but is well known to most people. When someone has kleptomania, they frequently act on impulses to take things even though they don't need them. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*, "shoplifting is reasonably widespread, although kleptomania is extraordinarily unusual." Around 0.3% to 0.6% of the general population suffers from kleptomania.

Kleptomania is a compulsion to steal, and it is repetitive failure to oppose impulses to steal things that you mainly do not require and have little value for money. About 5% of shoplifting cases are of Kleptomania (McElroy et al., 1991). The tendency to steal is uncommon; however, a genuine psychological issue can make an enthusiastic nuisance to you and your friends and family if not treated. It is an impulse control issue (DSM-IV) and a disorder that is described by emotional or behavioral problems. The prevalence of Kleptomania worldwide is unknown, but it is estimated that 6 people per 1000 people in America suffer (Goldman, 1994). You may find it challenging to resist the drive to do something that can be dangerous to you or people around you on the off chance that you have an impulse control issue.

Kleptomania Symptoms

  • Failure to oppose ground-breaking impulses to take things that you need not bother with
  • Feeling expanded pressure, uneasiness, or excitement paving the way to the robbery is a major kleptomania symptom.
  • Feeling delighted, alleviated, or satisfied while taking things
  • Feeling awful, blame, regret, self-hatred, disgrace, or fear of capture after the robbery
  • Return of the impulses and redundancy of the compulsion to steal cycle

A kleptomania test can be done by looking at these mentioned symptoms in any person.

Kleptomania Disorder or Characteristics

  • Scenes of compulsion to steal, for the most part, happen suddenly, generally without arranging and without assistance or joint effort from someone else.
  • The vast majority with a compulsion to steal take from open spots, for example, stores and markets. Some may take from companions or associates, for example, at a gathering.
  • Regularly, the taken things have no incentive to the individual with a compulsion to steal, and the individual can stand to get them.
  • The taken things usually are buried, never to be utilized. Things may likewise be given away to family or companions, or even covertly returned to the spot from which they were taken.
  • Desires to take may go back and forth or may happen with more prominent or lesser force through the period.
  • Other drive control issues include urgent betting or shopping, liquor, substance abuse, a Character issue, dietary problems, melancholy, bipolar turmoil, and even self-harm.

Kleptomania Causes

Multiple brain structures: Brain variations, particularly in regions that control impulse control and inhibitions, are more prevalent in those with kleptomania. These variations might point to fewer or weaker connections in the regions of their brains that regulate inhibition.

Different chemicals in the brain. Neurotransmitters are specialized substances that your brain utilizes to communicate and control specific functions. There are instances where individuals who started using drugs that influence the neurotransmitters in their brains later acquired kleptomania. These instances are uncommon, thus additional research is needed to determine why they occur.

A sign of additional mental health issues. Kleptomania is categorized by some authorities as a symptom rather than a disease. People with kleptomania frequently also suffer from other mental health conditions, particularly anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addictions, and substance use disorders. They are more likely to commit suicide and self-harm.

Genetics: Specialists are uncertain as to whether kleptomania may be inherited or whether a family history increases your likelihood of developing it. There isn't conclusive proof that kleptomania is inherited, despite the fact that those who have it frequently have a family history of other mental health issues, particularly anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders.

Kleptomania Treatment

People with Kleptomania lead lives of shame since they are reluctant to look for psychological wellness treatment. Although there is no permanent solution for Kleptomania found yet, treatment with medication or psychotherapy may end the stealing pattern.

Psychotherapy and psychopharmacology may be used in conjunction to treat kleptomania. One-on-one or group counselling or therapy are both possible. In either scenario, the emphasis is on addressing underlying psychological issues that may be a factor in a person s kleptomania.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: The most popular therapeutic strategy is cognitive behavioural therapy, while some professionals also use psychodynamic therapy. Kleptomania can also be treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which increase serotonin levels in the brain and are often used in conjunction with therapy.

Aversion Therapy: Kleptomania is occasionally treated with aversion therapy. Usually, the person is instructed to deliberately associate something unpleasant with the want to steal, such as training themselves to think of something repulsive whenever such an urge manifests, or to hold their breath to cause discomfort whenever such thoughts do.

Individuals who suffer from kleptomania typically experience strong feelings of guilt and embarrassment, which can make them reluctant to seek treatment. Treatment improves a patient's prognosis, but only if it is initiated quickly after symptoms first appear.

When to see a specialist?

If you cannot quit shoplifting, look for clinical counseling. Numerous individuals who may have a propensity for stealing would prefer not to look for treatment since they are apprehensive, they will be captured or imprisoned. Nonetheless, an emotional well-being practitioner ordinarily does not report your robberies.

Since the propensity for stealing is not apparent, it is not yet realized how to forestall it with any sureness. Getting treatment when enthusiastic taking starts may help keep the compulsion to steal from getting worse and forestall a portion of the adverse outcomes.

You are concerned because you care about your cherished one’s well-being and prosperity.

You are stressed over the dangers of impulsive taking, for example, being captured, losing a vocation, or harming an esteemed relationship.

You get that, with a propensity for stealing, the inclination to take might be too solid even to think about resisting just by "dedicating yourself to it."

Medicines are accessible that may assist with limiting the desire to steal and live without dependence and disgrace.

If you need assistance getting ready for this discussion, talk with your primary care physician. The individual in question may allude to psychological well-being proficiency that can help you arrange a method for raising your interests without causing your loved one to feel guarded or undermined.

If left untreated, the compulsion to steal can bring about serious family, work, and budgetary issues. For instance, you realize stealing is not right, yet you feel weak to oppose the drive so that you might be wrecked by blame, disgrace, self-hatred, and embarrassment. You can get help for yourself to get rid of these stealing compulsions and lead a carefree life where there is no chance of paying the price for the actions you do not even want to commit in the first place.

A gentle reminder!
Stealing (here) is an emotional wellness condition, not a character imperfection, so approach your adored one without fault or allegation.

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Goldman, M. J. (1991).Kleptomania: making sense of the nonsensical.American Journal of Psychiatry, 148(8):986-96.

American Psychiatric Association. Task Force on. (1994). DSM-IVsourcebook (Vol. 1). American Psychiatric Publications.

McElroy, S. L., Pope, H. G., Hudson, J. I., Keck, P. E., & White, K. L. (1991). Kleptomania: a report of 20 cases. The American journal of psychiatry.



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