While kleptomania is a rare mental disorder, it can wreak havoc on those afflicted. It can also incur serious legal repercussions when a person is unable to curb their compulsive desire to steal. It's characterized by an urgent need to steal items that have little or no value. People with kleptomania often steal items they could otherwise afford to purchase, making the disorder even more inscrutable to others.
Kleptomania most often occurs in public places. It also occurs without any prior planning, making it different from stealing for personal gain. People will often experience an intense urge to steal an item suddenly. Once an item is stolen it's usually hidden away to prevent others from discovering it. Some people with kleptomania even return items from where they were originally stolen out of a feeling of guilt.
While there is no identifiable cause of kleptomania, certain factors play a role. Mental illness is often a factor, and many people with kleptomania also experience depression, anxiety, or even substance abuse. Brain chemistry may also play a role. It's thought that people with low serotonin levels are more susceptible to impulsive disorders like this. There may also be a hereditary component, as people with a family history of mental health issues are more likely to develop kleptomania.
While there is no cure, there are treatments available that have proven effective in the past. When a person suffers from an underlying mental health issue, getting treatment for the issue can also help address symptoms of kleptomania. This entails taking certain medications or undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy. There is also convert sensitization therapy, during which a person imagines themselves stealing and then imagines the consequences that might follow, such as fines or jail time.