The crime of shoplifting isn’t always cut and dry. While many people steal for personal gain, others do so because of an uncontrollable impulse. This is known as kleptomania, which is a condition that can result in legal problems as well as emotional ones. The Mayo Clinic offers the following information on kleptomania and what can be done to control it.
Kleptomania falls into the category of impulse-control disorders, which also includes compulsive gambling and substance abuse. It’s characterized by the urge to steal often valueless items that the person usually has enough money to purchase at the time. Upon feeling an impulse to steal, a person will experience intense gratification when shoplifting. This state is short-lived, however, and often an intense low mood follows. This cycle renews itself on each shoplifting excursion. While people with kleptomania sometimes steal from loved ones, incidents usually occur in retail spaces.
There is no definable reason why people fall victim to kleptomania. Some believe it causes a release of dopamine similar to taking drugs or drinking alcohol. In this case, kleptomania could be considered an addictive disorder. Some posit that the disorder stems from low serotonin levels, which has been linked to an increase in impulsivity. People with a family history of addictive and impulsive disorders also have a higher risk.
So, what can be done if you or a loved one experiences kleptomania? Cognitive behavioral therapy is often the first step to identifying the issue and find a solution. Medication can also be provided, which might help control impulses or treat underlying mental health disorders. Some people feel triggered by certain events or occurrences, and being able to recognize triggers can be beneficial for preventing kleptomania in the future.