Kleptomania is one of the impulse control disorders, characterized by an overwhelming impulse to “steal objects that are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5.
Persons with keptomania, popularly referred to as kleptomaniacs, experience a recurring and irresistible impulse to steal. They do not steal for the value of the item, for its use, or because they cannot afford the purchase. They individual knows that it is wrong to steal. Stolen items are often thrown or given away, secretly returned to the store from which they were taken, or hidden. People with this disorder describe feeling tension prior to committing the theft, and feelings of relief or pleasure while stealing the item. They are generally aware that stealing is wrong, are financially able to purchase the items stolen, and rarely keep what they steal. Individuals with kleptomania may report actively trying to suppress the impulse to steal, but may feels powerless to prevent the behavior.
Kleptomania is a rare disorder, documented in roughly 0.3% to 0.6% of the general population. It typically begins in adolescence, although the disorder may begin in childhood or adulthood as well, and is significantly more common among females than males. Kleptomania is different from deliberate theft or shoplifting, which is much more common. Shoplifting often involves two or more individuals working together; among adolescents, peers sometimes challenge or dare each other to commit an act of shoplifting. Individuals with kleptomania are not influenced by peers. This disorder may persist despite arrests for shoplifting; these individuals are apparently not deterred by the consequences of stealing, but may feel guilt afterwards. Kleptomania is more common among people with addictive histories. The neurotransmitter pathways active in addictive disorders (serotonin, dopamine, and opioid systems) appear to be involved in kleptomania also.
See also Addiction/addictive personality ; Guilt ; Impulse control disorders .
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