The urge to steal items can’t be resisted, and they really don’t need or even want the things they steal. They can afford to buy the items, but there’s an impulse to steal, and it’s out of control.
Kleptomania is a type of impulse control disorder that, in spite of their resistance, people have the urge to continue to do it. The overwhelming need to steal gives the person with Kleptomania a thrill. But, after the theft, the individual usually feels guilty.
A complex disorder that involves repeated, but failed, attempts to stop stealing, Kleptomania is often found to be in people who have another, (coexisting) disorder, which may include mood, anxiety or eating disorders, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depression and social phobia. It is a possibility that the “thrill” of stealing helps to relieve the symptoms in individuals who are clinically depressed.
Kleptomania is not like shoplifting, which is done for personal gain, peer pressure/a dare, or out of rebellion. In Kleptomania, the urge to steal is powerful and irresistible.
Kleptomania is found to be in 0.3 to 0.6 percent of the population and is more common in females than males. However, it is hard to know the exact number, because people with the disorder are secretive and deceptive.
Symptoms of Kleptomania
With a drive to steal that they feel can’t be stopped, people with Kleptomania feel guilt after theft, often trying to return the items that are stolen. Some of the additional symptoms of Kleptomania are:
- Feeling of tension and excitement that is caused by the impulse.
- Stealing is not planned and is usually impromptu.
- Theft is not done from anger or to get back at anybody.
- Irresistible, powerful urge to steal, although the items are not needed.
- Feeling intense guilt and remorse after stealing.
- Feeling shame, self-loathing and afraid of being arrested after stealing.
- Repeated urges to steal.
- Behavior tends to continue even after an individual has been arrested repeatedly.
- It is not done with help from another individual.
- Stealing is done in stores, supermarkets and other public places.
- May steal from friends or acquaintances.
- The item that is stolen has no value to the person.
- Individuals can afford to buy the items they steal.
- The items that are stolen are usually stored away and not used. They might even be given away to others, donated or returned to the store or place they were stolen secretively.
- The urge to steal may come and go with more or less intensity over time.
- Increased tension right before the theft.
- A feeling of relief, pleasure and satisfaction when committing the theft.
- Stealing is not because of anger and not from a delusion or hallucination.
- The behavior is not because of a conduct or antisocial personality disorder or a manic episode.
Individuals with Kleptomania may have difficulties in relationships because of stealing from their family members and friends. In addition, the person may have problems at his job, because he steals from the employer.
People who have Kleptomania risk legal problems, since stealing is a crime. Many times, they only find treatment when authorities make them.
What Causes Kleptomania?
The exact cause of Kleptomania is unknown, but there may be a relationship between impulse control disorders and chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) that assist the nerve cells in the brain that carry messages to each other. If there is not a balance of the chemicals, it can affect how the brain controls impulses. Major stress may be a trigger of Kleptomania.
Very often, the individuals with Kleptomania have coexisting mental disorders that may be a link in developing the disorder.
Treatment of Kleptomania
Psychotherapy is usually the treatment for impulse control disorders. Therapy helps the individual understand why he acts on impulse. He learns how to appropriately respond to the urges to steal.
The treatment also focuses on managing the behavior. A therapist will also work with the individual on relapse prevention strategies by identifying the triggers. In addition, other disorders that may coexist like depression or anxiety are also treated.
Treatment for Kleptomania has been successful, and the impulse to steal may lessen as the person gets older.
Celebrities Who Suffer From Kleptomania
Several celebrities have been caught while stealing, and it is clear they weren’t lacking for money. The following are some of the celebrities who show the signs of Kleptomania.
Megan Fox, a favorite star to many millions of people and one of Hollywood’s beautiful women, was caught stealing a few times. She was barred from entering Walmart for life for stealing a lip gloss that was worth seven dollars.
Farrah Fawcett, a Hollywood icon in the 1970s, was a Kleptomaniac at the peak of her stardom. She was caught stealing clothes from stores, saying that she was “taking justice in her own hands” as if that was a reason for her acts.
Britney Spears took a blouse from a store and walked out. She stole a wig, as well as taking a disposable lighter from a gas station.
Lindsay Lohan was caught on camera stealing jewelry with a ticket price of $2,500 from a store in Venice. She has also been caught while walking out of stores with unpaid merchandise, such as dresses, necklaces, shoes and bracelets.
With problems of anxiety and depression, Winona Ryder wasn’t only known for her acting. She was accused of stealing items worth $5,000 from Saks Fifth Avenue. She was fined and had to pay the store back for the items. In addition, she was advised to seek counseling.
The daughter of English television host Hughie Green, Peaches Geldof had a privileged childhood and was a socialite. She was a model and a writer for London’s Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. She stole several times, leaving a store without paying for a $500 dress and trying to lift undergarments from another shop.