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What are the Myths and Facts of Kleptomania?

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Myths and Facts of Kleptomania: Kleptomania is a recurrent, spontaneous urge to steal, usually without regard for necessity or profit.

Kleptomania is not the same as shoplifting. Most individuals who shoplift do it because they want, need, or can’t afford something or because of peer pressure, as in the case of certain juvenile shoplifters. Kleptomania, however, leads to an act of theft as a result of an impulse control disorder. This can affect people of all ages. Impulse control disorders are mental illnesses characterized by a persistent inability to resist impulses or urges, and consequently act in an unsafe or destructive manner. People with such conditions are aware that acting on their impulses may cause harm to themselves or others, but they are unable resist the urge or stop themselves from acting out.

Although shoplifting is frequent, real Kleptomania is uncommon (0.3 to 0.6 per cent of the general population). Kleptomania affects between 4% and 24% of shoplifters, according to estimates. Because this condition is characterized by secrecy and dishonesty, it is impossible to determine the precise number of persons who suffer from it. Females are more prone to Kleptomania than males.

Myths and Facts of Kleptomania: Causes of Kleptomania

The specific cause of Kleptomania remains unknown. Researchers are looking into a possible link between impulse control problems, such as Kleptomania and neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that allow nerve cells in the brain to communicate with each other. An imbalance of these substances can harm the brain’s ability to control impulses. Major stress is thought to be a cause for impulsive behavior.

Dopamine, the “happy” hormone, has a role at the start of Kleptomania. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in our brain’s reward system, and its release is linked to the sensation of pleasure. As a result, the pleasure and fulfilment that a kleptomaniac goes through during the act of stealing is what promotes the cyclical indulgence in the said act.

Serotonin, in addition to dopamine, is another hormone linked with the onset of Kleptomania. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that governs our mood and happiness. As a result, a person’s risk of developing kleptomania increases when their serotonin levels are low and their dopamine levels are high.

Kleptomaniacs frequently suffer from various mental illnesses. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance addiction disorders are the most common. This implies that there could be a link between these diseases and the onset of Kleptomania.

Symptoms of Kleptomania

A kleptomaniac will feel extreme remorse and guilt after the act of stealing. Along with that, the common symptoms are as follows:

  • Failure to resist temptations to steal objects frequently.
  • The purpose of stealing is not for personal gain or the monetary value of the items.
  • Stealing is not a way to express rage, retaliation or rebellion for the individual.
  • Other illnesses are  not the cause for the theft (e.g., conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, major depressive disorder)
  • At the time of the theft, the patient feels a sensation of joy, fulfilment, or relaxation.

Myths and Facts of Kleptomania

Kleptomania is frequently misunderstood as the simple act of shoplifting. It is much more than just stealing for personal gain or pleasure. Here are some common myths and facts about Kleptomania:

  • Shoplifters are referred to as kleptomaniacs.

While people suffering from Kleptomania do indulge in shoplifting, but they’re not like regular shoplifters. Unlike other shoplifters, they do not organize their robberies ahead of time or to profit, exact revenge or exhibit rebellion. They usually steal on the spur of the moment, without planning or enlisting the assistance of others.

  • Kleptomania is a symptom of hysteria.

This impulse-control problem was assumed to be caused by reproductive disorders in women, as was the case with many other mental illnesses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This has now proven to be incorrect.

Kleptomania is a severe condition. People of all ages, gender and walks of life can be afflicted with this condition. Fortunately, much of the stigma associated with mental illness has dissipated because of contemporary psychology, and people may now obtain the right therapy when they need it.

  • Pyromania and Kleptomania are frequently found together in the same person.

As previously stated, many kleptomaniacs also suffer from other impulse-control problems, which can include pyromania. Many persons who are obsessed with stealing may also be obsessed with other impulse related disorders such as setting fire to other people’s possessions.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder and certain eating disorders are akin to Kleptomania.

Although there is no universal agreement among psychologists, many believe that Kleptomania is an impulse-control disorder produced by intrusive and compulsive thoughts about stealing. Many kleptomaniacs don’t steal valuable things; rather, they steal things that provide them with a sense of comfort or enjoyment, making them addicted to the act of stealing in the same manner that others are addicted to narcotics as a coping mechanism for their difficulties.

  • Kleptomaniacs can simply quit stealing if they want to.

Kleptomaniacs find it extremely difficult to quit stealing. Kleptomania is classified as an impulse control disorder, which is a type of disorder in which persons have trouble controlling their emotions or behaviors and as a result may indulge in spontaneous aberrant acts.  They are aware that shoplifting and theft are illegal, but they are unable to stop themselves. They are essentially thieves that do not want to steal but cannot stop themselves from doing so.

  • Kleptomaniacs will only grab valuable goods. 

People with Kleptomania steal objects to satisfy their drive to steal, according to the diagnostic criteria. They frequently steal items they don’t require or desire, just to hide them and never see them again or they may even donate them or return them to the original owners/locations. Those who suffer from Kleptomania should seek medical assistance. Even if people are afraid or embarrassed, Kleptomania, like any addiction, can be successfully cured. It should be highlighted that medical experts will not disclose their kleptomaniac patients’ stealing behavior, therefore the fear of being apprehended by law authorities should not deter someone with Kleptomania from getting treatment.

  • Kleptomaniacs have no regret post the act of theft. 

After stealing anything, people with Kleptomania frequently feel a great deal of remorse, regret, embarrassment, fear, and guilt. Some individuals may be concerned that their conduct will result in an arrest or discovery by law authorities. Unfortunately, for persons suffering from this illness, the strong desire to steal can strike at any time and in any location. Kleptomaniacs frequently report stealing from public venues such as supermarkets and shopping malls, as well as more private locations such as a friend’s or family member’s house.

Treatments for Kleptomania

Impulse control issues like Kleptomania are commonly treated with cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Its purpose is to help people who have trouble controlling their impulses understand why they might act on them and to guide them through adaptive techniques to resist the urge to steal. The following are some of the approaches used in CBT to help people with impulse control disorders:

  • Imagine theft-related scenarios and the probable consequences of stealing as a covert sensitization exercise (e.g., handcuffed, approached by the police, or imprisoned)
  • Imaginal desensitization: envisioning their desire to steal when tempted and successfully resisting temptation in the end.
  • Aversion treatment involves repeatedly associating an unpleasant action with discomfort or moderate pain (e.g., practice breath-holding techniques whenever one feels the urge to steal)
  • Alternative sources of enjoyment or satisfaction: participate in other activities that stimulate the individual (e.g., playing sports, drawing, or bird watching)

Other medicines are being researched for usage in kleptomania patients. Naltrexone is one medicine that has shown promise in regulating impulse-based behavior. 

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