Kleptomania: Understanding this urge to steal

Kleptomania is a psychological disorder. It can be described as an impulsive behavioural control disorder where an individual is unable to resist the urge to steal. Often, this act is spontaneous and not done for monetary benefit. These episodes of theft are often followed by an overwhelming sense of guilt, shame and anxiety. It can also lead to depression and suicidal thoughts in some cases. If caught in the act, a kleptomaniac is likely to experience distress and humiliation, which can impact his or her social interactions

Symptoms of kleptomania

Men and women across all age groups can suffer from this condition, and most patients reveal that they have been battling the disorder since adolescence. Clinical psychologist Seema Hingorani shares the symptoms of kleptomania and the cure.

  • An uncontrollable impulsive urge to resort to thefts or to indulge in comfort shopping with someone else’s money.
  • The act of stealing gives momentary pleasure and a sense of gratification.
  • The individual is likely to become tense or anxious before the actual act of theft.

Treatment and cure

Seek help from a mental health expert, who will screen you to find out if you are a kleptomaniac. He or she is likely to determine if you are battling kleptomania based on the information provided by you in response to the following questions.

  • Do you have a compulsive urge to steal that you act on frequently?
  • Are you preoccupied with thoughts of theft, and wish you could do something to change that?
  • Do you feel stressed or anxious before the act of theft?
  • Do you experience a sense of pleasure or relief once you steal something?
  • Does the thought of stealing cause you distress?
  • Is this act of stealing taking a toll on your life and social interactions?

If your answer is in the affirmative to most of these questions, you need logical intervention from a mental health expert. He or she will try to understand and make you aware of your motivations and your reasons for wanting to steal. Alongwith group and individual counselling, and medication the mental health expert will try to correct this behaviour.