Kleptomania is described by the DSM-IV as a recurrent failure to resist stealing unneeded objects or those of little value, preceded by a rising tension before the act and accompanied by a sense of relief after the actual stealing behavior is completed. This tension-act-relief cycle places Kleptomania in the group known as Impulse Control Disorders. Kleptomania gets it name from two Greek words which mean “to steal” and “madness” (mania).


Individuals diagnosed with kleptomania score high on impulsivity scales, with resultant inability to control their behavior. Kleptomania has high comorbidity with mood disorders, with depression being a precursor to this behavior. It has also been linked to anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and, to a lesser extent, substance-use disorders. Kleptomania is more common in women than men and usually decreases in severity with age.




Although systematic desensitization is sometimes used to decrease the tension that patients feel, treatment of kleptomania is usually targeted at the disorders that are associated or comorbid with it. The use of antidepressant medication, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy, is the recommended treatment.

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