Kleptomania: An Unrecognized Impulse Control Disorder
Kleptomania is a serious disorder that causes an irresistible urge to steal items that are not required and are usually of little value.
Kleptomaniacs live lives of secret shame because they are afraid to seek mental health treatment.
The problem may be linked to a brain chemical known as Serotonin which regulates the moods and emotions of an individual.
I- Main Features of Kleptomania:
There are some features of kleptomania:·
.Unlike typical shoplifters, people with kleptomania do not compulsively steal for personal gain, on a dare, for revenge or out of rebellion. They steal simply because the urge is so powerful that they cannot resist it.
· Most people with kleptomania steal from public places such as stores and supermarkets. Some may steal from friends or acquaintances such as at the party
· Often, the stolen items have no value to the person with kleptomania and the person can afford to buy them
· Urges to steal may come and go or may occur with greater or lesser intensity over the course of time
II- Causes of kleptomania:
There are some factors that can contribute to kleptomania. Genetics and biology may account for a portion of the root causes which include:
· Problems with low levels of Serotonin leading to an increase in impulsive behaviours
· Head trauma like concussions
· A family history of kleptomania or addiction
· Having other mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders or personality disorders
· Relations with addictive disorders, since stealing can release the rush of dopamine that becomes addictive.
III- Consequences of kleptomania:
A person with kleptomania has a recurring drive to steal that he or she cannot resist. Some people with this disorder might feel guilty afterward and even try to return the objects they steal. Other symptoms that occur with kleptomania include the following:
· Feeling increased tension, anxiety or arousal leading up to the theft
· Inability to resist powerful urges to steal items that you do not need
· Return of the urges and a repetition of the kleptomania cycle
· Feeling terrible guilt, remorse, self-loathing, shame, or fear of arrest after the theft
· Feeling pleasure, relief or gratification while stealing.
IV- Solutions/ How Kleptomania can be treated
Psychotherapy is the main treatment for impulse control disorders. The goal of therapy is to help the person to understand why he or she acts on the impulse and to learn how to respond to the urges in a more appropriate way.
To solve this problem, the therapist will help learn to stop detrimental behaviour.
The therapist may use:
· Systematic desensitisation, in which you practice relaxation techniques to learn to control the urges to steal
· Covert sensitisation, in which you imagine yourself stealing and then facing negative consequences like being arrested
· Certain antidepressant medications called selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and Naltrexone ( Revia, Vivitrol) might be useful in helping to curb very intense urges.