Kleptomania is described as the inability to resist an urge to collect things. These things are usually acquired by stealing, and are generally items of little to no value. Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder and may be accompanied by other mental illnesses, such as borderline or schizoid personality disorder. There may also be similarities with obsessive compulsive disorder, such as hoarding or obsessive arranging.
Symptoms of Kleptomania
Kleptomania causes urges that are too irresistible to ignore. Most occurrences happen spontaneously, but there are some reports that patients experiencing anxiety or mood swings may engage in this activity as a way to seek relief. The following list of symptoms give an overview of actions that may indicate kleptomania:
- An urge to steal items from public places or friends. These items are generally of no value and this activity does not lead to personal gain.
- Increased tension or anxiety may lead to the urge for stealing.
- Immense amount of relief and pleasure during the activity.
- Increased guilt, shame or embarrassment after the fact.
- Hoarding or obsessive arranging of the stolen items, or secret return of the stolen items to the original owner.
Causes of Kleptomania
The true cause of kleptomania remains a mystery. As with many mental illnesses, it is thought that a brain chemical imbalance may play a role. Additionally, people who come from a family whose history includes mental illness may be subject to these symptoms and others. Symptoms of kleptomania could arise from genetic inheritance, learned from close family members, or result from personal or family drug use. Some treatment options can help to uncover a potential cause for individuals with this disorder.
Diagnosis of Kleptomania
In order to diagnose symptoms of kleptomania, a medical physician will generally perform physical tests to rule out any brain injuries or other physical illness that could be causing symptoms. Once any medical ailment has been ruled out, a psychiatrist or psychologist should perform an evaluation. The assessment of behavior and symptoms will most likely include questions regarding family history of mental illness and drug use, presence of any other known mental illness and several questions regarding current symptoms and behavior. Patients may also be presented with hypothetical scenarios to see if any mental or physical reactions are produced. A compilation of findings should help to determine the proper diagnosis.
Treatment Options for Kleptomania
Treatment for kleptomania is important, due to the range of complications that may result from this type of behavior. In addition to the potential for arrest or imprisonment, patients may also become depressed or experience severe anxiety. Kleptomania may lead to eating disorders, compulsive gambling or shopping, drug use, suicidal tendencies or social anxiety. Treatment options generally include traditional medication, therapy and alternative measures to suit. Often, patients may find benefit in participating in multiple types of treatment. Following is a brief list of some options for treating kleptomania:
- Medication – Depending upon overall condition and personal situation, different types of medication may be recommended. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers and addiction medications are among the list of prescription options that may benefit.
- Therapy – Many different types of therapy are available to help people who suffer with kleptomania. Individual or group therapy may generate ideas and tactics to prevent symptoms and provide activities that can lead away from this type of behavior. Family therapy may help to clear up events that may be causing symptoms.
- Alternative therapies – homeopathic solutions and alternative remedies may provide relief on a whole-body basis, leading to clarity, awareness and wellness of the mind. These may include meditation, relaxation techniques or exercise programs, such as yoga or tai-chi.