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What Are the Symptoms of Kleptomania?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Symptoms of kleptomania include experiencing a significant urge or desire to steal items that a person does not need or particularly want. This urge to take things that do not belong to a person are not inspired by greed, malice, or a desire to fit in with a peer group, as is often true with other types of stealing, such as shoplifting. Individuals who have kleptomania frequently experience a great deal of tension as the urge to steal builds within them. If they succumb, they may temporarily have good feelings about the theft but often cycle into feelings of shame and guilt. Acting on the desire to steal may appear out of the blue for some kleptomania sufferers, though others may find that their urge to take things that don't belong to them are generally associated with stressful situations.

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Many people who steal do so for concrete, identifiable, and even understandable reasons. For example, a person who is very hungry or who has hungry children and has no food may make the decision to steal out of desperation and a desire to feed himself or his children. A professional thief often steals for financial gain, while others may be motivated by a desire to hurt the victim of their theft. None of these describe the symptoms of kleptomania, in which a sufferer will steal as a response to an overwhelming urge rather than for personal gain. A kleptomaniac may not even keep the items that he or she takes from others, particularly because in many cases he or she has no real interest or use for these items.

Psychologists and other mental health professionals typically regard kleptomania as a rare disorder. In many cases, people who habitually steal from others are not diagnosed with kleptomania, although they may be diagnosed with another type of mental disorder. If an individual identifies symptoms of kleptomania in himself or others, most mental health professionals will want to do a thorough evaluation so as to ensure that there is not another cause for the behavior.

There appears to be some association between kleptomania and other anxiety, depressive, and compulsion disorders. In some cases, someone with a primary diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder or depression may also demonstrate symptoms of kleptomania. Like these conditions, kleptomania is often treated with a combination of counseling, including cognitive behavioral therapy and, in some cases, drug therapy that can help a sufferer to better control his behavior.

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