Could You Be A Kleptomaniac?

10 mins read

Have you ever felt the urge to take something that isn’t yours? The rush of adrenaline of not getting caught may feel good, but if you have no need to steal something, you could be a kleptomaniac. A kleptomaniac is a person who takes things that don’t belong to them when they really don’t need to have them. That’s not to be confused with someone who steals out of necessity for things like being hungry. A person with kleptomania is doing it for the thrill, and it’s more often than not these individuals who shoplift the most.

Most of the time, kleptomaniacs who head out to supermarkets to steal end up with a shoplifting arrest for the most petty of items. A pack of bubblegum, a can of drink – it’s all inconsequential stuff at first, anyway. It’s not that they need the bubble gum and it’s not as if they can’t afford it, it’s just that they want it and they get a thrill out of taking something that doesn’t belong to them. Before you judge a person with kleptomania, know that this is a mental health disorder. Liken it to a person taking a drug: they get a high, a thrill, before a comedown, and they do it again for that same thrill. A person with kleptomania will continue to shoplift and to take from their employer and their loved ones, simply because they cannot help it. They are tempted to take something that doesn’t belong to them, and this drives them further toward a whole new habit. 

This can develop into something scarier, taking bigger things and taking more than is necessary. The best way that someone can stop compulsively stealing is to use CBT to help them to talk their brains and their urges down. Could you have kleptomania? Are you worried about taking things that aren’t yours? Let’s read through some of the things you may recognize, to help you to decide!

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Characteristics of a Kleptomaniac

A shoplifter is usually someone who steals food or items of value to sell for something that they are in desperate need of. A kleptomaniac is not like a typical shoplifter. No one is daring them to take something and they’re not taking anything for revenge. They won’t even steal for monetary gain. They have a strong urge, a push, to take something off the shelf and slip it into their pocket. They don’t plan a crime, they simply are overtaken by an urge to take when they are in the moment. They don’t involve anyone in their theft; they’re just sneaking something into their sleeve as they go. These acts are always done publicly, and they’re not usually involved in taking from a person or from an employer – though it can go that way if there is no limit to the urge that they feel. This kind of theft is not something that people outside their world tends to understand, but for a person with kleptomania, this is something that will occur when they are most stressed in life.

Causes of Kleptomania

The best known cause of kleptomania is stress. The exact cause is not something that can be pinpointed easily as it differs for every single person who is suffering with it. There are some experts out there that think that the main problem comes from the deepest changes in the brain. It’s something that the person can control in a life where they may lack control that they need. There needs to be more research on this, though, as there is such an intense need to steal that sometimes even they don’t understand it!

There are several theories about those with kleptomania, and understanding those theories is vital for those who are trying to handle it themselves. Some of the known theories on kleptomania include:

  • Kleptomaniacs may be low on serotonin. This is one of the biggest known issues with those with kleptomania, as a chemical imbalance could be causing this issue. When this neurotransmitter is low, a person will have issues with their impulses and their ability to control them.
  • There may be underlying addiction disorders. One of the other neurotransmitters that are involved in kleptomania is dopamine. The feeling of pleasure is released when a kleptomaniac steals. It can really mess up the internal reward system a person feels. An imbalance of dopamine can play a big part in this issue!
  • Opioid receptors are involved. The brain uses an opioid system to regulate a person’s urges. When illegal drugs are used, it’s much harder for people to resist their use – and if you have a strong urge to steal things, you may be driven to those acts.

The Cost Of Kleptomania

Shoplifting remains one of the most frustrating crimes for businesses the world over, costing retailers over $10 million every year. Only 5% of shoplifters are those with kleptomania, and the biggest problem with those who suffer with it is that it goes undiagnosed. Those who believe that they have a problem will not seek help because they know that there is a stigma attached to the label. Others who are in denial or aware there is a problem often have repeat issues with the law and have even spent time in prison for theft. Often, the urge to steal begins in the teenage years, and 2/3 of people with kleptomania are female.

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Risk Factors of Kleptomania

There are some risk factors for kleptomania that experts have put together, and some of those include:

  • Family History. If there has been a parent or sibling with addiction issues or even kleptomania, you may be suffering with it yourself. There are also links in genetics for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, too.
  • Mental Illness. Undiagnosed mental illnesses are often hand in hand with those with kleptomania. The most commonly diagnosed comorbidities are depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder for kleptomania.


The problem with the continued need to steal, is the fact that you are at risk of being arrested. In your personal and professional life, there could be some significant issues as a result.

A kleptomaniac knows that stealing is wrong, but they can’t help themselves. They can’t fight those urges because they don’t have the ability to control them at all. It’s an urge that they can’t fight and they don’t try to, either. They feel intense guilt and shame, too, as they know what they are doing is wrong.

Signs You May Have Kleptomania

It can be difficult to both admit there is a problem and it can be hard to identify the signs of kleptomania at first. As time goes on, it gets harder to deny! Some of the signs include:

  • A need to steal
  • Bouts of anxiety and worry
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Severe stress
  • Self-loathing
  • Impulse control issues

Getting Help

It’s a rare condition, but it’s going to be one you need to get a diagnosis for if you are in any way concerned. Your family doctor will help you with some assistance to see a mental health professional. It’s a problem that you can get behavioral therapy for and you can avoid jail as a result. Seeking treatment can be confidential and it doesn’t have to ruin your professional or personal life when you ask for help. The key is in knowing that you can get the right help if you have guidance on where to look. Don’t suffer alone. If you’re concerned, get some advice now so that you can get help.

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