Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder that requires 5 criteria according to the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition.
1. Recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal objects that are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value.
2. Increasing sense of tension immediately before committing the theft.
3. Pleasure, gratification, or relief at the time of committing the theft.
4. The stealing is not committed to express anger or vengeance and is not in response to a delusion or a hallucination.
5. stealing is not better explained by conduct disorder, a manic episode, or antisocial personality disorder.
Even though kleptomania has “mania” in the name, it’s not related to bipolar disorder at all. It’s not something people do because they are in a manic state. There are other disorders that have mania in the name like
Pyromania with is compulsive fire setting and
Trichotillomania which is compulsive hair pulling
Because the person often takes small objects as opposed to filling up a backpack with stuff, they can avoid detection and the behavior can go unnoticed for a long time. Typically, they won’t admit it to anyone, even people close to them.
Another thing people will do is return items or give them away. There’s usually a lot of remorse or self-loathing associated with taking the items afterwards and that leads people to want to get rid of them. They may anonymously return them or give them to someone who can use the items.
This disorder isn’t studied much because it’s not that common in the general population and people don’t often seek help unless they’re faced with negative consequences like a spouse threatening to leave or facing legal troubles.
This disorder usually starts in the teenage years to early adulthood. Because it’s not studied much, we don’t have treatment protocols for it. Medication may help somewhat, usually the mood stabilizer that we use to treat other impulse control problems. Some specialized cognitive behavior therapy may also be helpful. If the person develops other problems like depression or anxiety, the treatment they get for the other problem may also help their kleptomania.
It is the kind of condition that can come and go over time. People can have several episodes, then have long periods of remission where they aren’t very active.
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