As medical science is advancing, especially, psychiatry, physicians are able to diagnose and provide treatment to more patients. According to the statistics released by Our World in Data in 2018, about 970 million people across the world are suffering from mental diseases. Psychological disorders appear as if they are made up; however, they are a serious threat to a person’s overall well-being. Among them, Kleptomania is a disorder that is often overlooked. It is a form of impulse disorder, and a person suffering from kleptomania is unable to resist their urge to steal, what makes it detrimental is that the stolen objects don’t even have to be valuable, this can result in serious consequences to the person’s career, relationship, and social life. Here are some interesting facts about kleptomania:
Like most words and phrases in the English language, the word kleptomania is derived from Greek. In Greek, κλέπτω (klepto) and μανία (mania) mean crazy desire or euphoric compulsion to do certain activities that may seem nonsensical to others.
2. It was deemed childish
French psychiatrists were the first people to observe such behavior in the middle of the 19th century; however, it was not until 1890 that people started linking kleptomaniacal behavior with conditions like Hysteria, Imbecility, and Cerebral Defect. As studies on the mentioned conditions were advancing rapidly, no concrete evidence was found that would justify the link between kleptomania and the mentioned conditions. Ultimately, kleptomania was deemed childish, psychiatrists stated that this behavior was similar to an infant’s urge to grab every new thing they see.
3. Uncontrollable Sweet Release
Presently, it is confirmed that kleptomaniacs constantly suppress their strong urges to steal, and their increased tension or sexual arousal often leads them to theft. According to psychiatrists, once a certain repressing threshold is crossed, kleptomaniacs lose control over their emotions and steal the first thing they find. Once they commit theft, they experience a sense of pleasure and relief similar to orgasm due to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure.
4. Anything Goes
Once kleptomaniacs can no longer suppress their urge to steal, they will steal just about anything to satisfy their urge. Usually, people associate valuable things like jewelry and money with theft; however, there have been recorded cases in which people were caught stealing insignificant objects like pencils.
5. Money Attracts Theft
According to studies, throughout the world, over 90% of kleptomaniacs were born in wealthy households or the very least have a high-paying job. Therefore, the counterargument that kleptomania is not a disorder but an excuse, which most people present is invalid.
6. Gender Plays a Role
A study conducted in 1924 by Wilhelm Stekel, an Austrian psychologist following Psychoanalytic Theory, concluded that females are more likely to be kleptomaniacs. He gave the reason behind this that females are more likely to suppress their sexual desires, which ultimately, surface as kleptomania.
7. It may Burn
In a recent study, it was found that if kleptomaniacs are strictly controlled from stealing without providing psychological help, they begin to satisfy their urge via Pyromania, which is another impulse disorder that causes one to set things or properties on fire. Interestingly, both pyromania and kleptomania function on the same principle of compulsion and repressed feelings.
8. Post-Theft Clarity
Once theft has been made, kleptomaniacs experience intense pleasure; however, as soon as the pleasure fades, they often find themselves experiencing self-hate, remorse, and shame. Psychologists state that it is similar to substance addiction, and people suffering from kleptomania end up relying solely on theft for pleasure.
9. Mistaken for Shoplifting
Although the studies were already present that stated kleptomania existed, it was mistaken for shoplifting because, during the 20th century, most thefts committed by kleptomaniac were carried out in departmental or convenience stores mostly by wealthy females. These were given the name of Department Store Kleptomaniacs.
10. Save it for later
Since kleptomania is a compulsive disorder, a majority of people suffering from it also show symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. Hence, they end up hoarding the items they steal. This creates an endless loop for the patients, as they try to suffice their two compulsive disorders of stealing and hoarding.
11. The Multitool: Antidepressants
It may come as a surprise but antidepressants are widely used to treat mental disorders other than depression. Kleptomania being a symptom of an underlying disorder, psychiatrists often prescribe antidepressants, particularly, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat it. In theory, it works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that carries signals between nerve cells. Although SSRIs’ effectiveness regarding kleptomania is controversial.
12. The Actual Treatment
According to studies, Cognitive-behavioral therapy is immensely beneficial when it comes to kleptomania. It is a form of psychotherapy, in which a psychotherapist discusses theft urges with patients and guides them to change their thought processes. Additionally, activities may be suggested to patients to redirect their urge towards something positive. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is known to work for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more.