Kleptomania is a mental disorder in which the infected person has the impulse to steal objects that have little or no known value to them. The kleptomaniac could easily purchase the item that was stolen, but research has shown that most do it for the adrenaline rush experienced from stealing. Kleptomania has no treatment. People diagnosed with the disorder are advocated to go through psychotherapy or take an anti-depressant medication. As knowledge of kleptomania grows, society has grown more readily to accept it and many more theories about the cause of the disorder have emerged (MJ Goldman, Harvard Medical School). General Information:
Kleptomania is not classified as shoplifting. Those who experience kleptomaniac symptoms often steal for the rush and not the need. "One theory proposes that the thrill of stealing helps to alleviate symptoms in persons who are clinically depressed" (Gale, Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders). Another theory is that items are stolen to "release tension that has been building in them" (www.mental-health-matters.com). Since the kleptomaniac ultimately feels guilty for steeling, objects stolen are usually returned, thrown away, hidden, or given away to others as gifts.
When a kleptomaniac is found guilty of shoplifting, the United States and the United Kingdom court systems do not consider the illness of kleptomania as a valid mental disorder. Those who are caught stealing have to face the consequences that come along with shoplifting just like the person who steals and does not have the disorder. "The kind of theft that attracts people with kleptomania is known legally as larceny. Larcenies are thefts that do not involve violence, personal robbery or burglary" (Clarke, irishhealth.com). Those who do get caught usually pay the fines as quickly as possible to try and hide their disorder from the public (Clarke).
The average diagnosed kleptomaniac is usually female and normally between the ages of 16 and 65, yet some cases have been linked to those as young as 5 years old (Goldman). Right before the kleptomaniac is able to steal an object they feel an adrenaline rush over take their mental state. Many describe it as, "[experiencing] the impulse to steal as an alien, [an] unwanted intrusion into their mental state" (psychnet-uk.com). Most kleptomaniacs steal for an average of 16 years and can go for long periods of time without stealing anything. Unlike shoplifters, kleptomaniacs often take items on impulse without planning or thinking of the possible repercussions. "Only an estimated 5% of people who steal from shops are clinically kleptomaniac" (Clarke, irishhealth.com). For those with kleptomania, going into a store is experienced differently than it is for the rest of society (Gale). Cause:
The exact cause of kleptomania is unknown, however, many researchers believe that it is caused by other mental disorders such as, "depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, substance abuse, and eating disorders" (Allen, Bringham and Women's Hospital Health Information). Many researchers theorize that kleptomania is triggered by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The chemical that is supposed to cause kleptomania is serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical within "the central nervous system [that] is believed to play an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep, emesis (vomiting), sexuality and appetite" (wikipedia.com). Serotonin also causes other disorders such as, " bipolar mood disorder, conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and [cause] manic episodes in response to delusions and dementia" (PsychNet-UK). Major losses such as a death in the family, can also trigger kleptomania. Some also theorize that as the kleptomaniac grows older, the serotonin imbalance in the brain gets stronger and other disorders form that are more noticeable to the infected than kleptomania. Because the true cause of the disorder is unknown,...
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