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Kleptomania - stealing against one's will is also dependence

Kleptomania - stealing against one's will is also dependence

Kleptomania is not a commonplace theft and lack of discipline, but a serious mental disorder, characterized by strong amotivational urge to steal. The person obsessed by this addiction, commits a theft not because of financial gain or benefits, but because he just enjoys the process and accomplished fact of stealing. Many items, stolen by a kleptomaniac, have no value for him; he doesn’t need them at all. And after stealing the addict is ashamed of it and feels remorse; often he throws his “trophies” away, regrets of what was done, but later the situation repeats again.

Kleptomania causes a lot of discomfort and hardships to the addict and his victims. If the police interfere in this case, nobody will be revealing the true reasons of stealing, and the kleptomaniac will have to pay a fine or even go to jail. That is why many kleptomaniacs conceal their addiction and are ashamed of it.

Pathological stealing has no typical portrait or age – it can be equally met by children and adults, young and old people, rich and poor, men and women.

Reasons of kleptomania

The reasons of pathological stealing are not well-defined. It is thought, that kleptomania is caused by changes in brain structures of the addict. For instance, disfunction of serotonin transmitter leads to deficiency of this hormone in the body, and the human loses ability to enjoy simple and ordinary things. The extreme situation (stealing) releases another hormone, dopamine, which allows the person to feel joy and delight. And this is the condition, which the addict wants to repeat again and again.

According to another theory, kleptomania is caused by brain injury or stressful situations, which have taken place recently. The people, who suffered from mental disorder or some addiction before, quite often become kleptomaniacs. Sometimes addiction to stealing can be inherited.

Symptoms of kleptomania

It is almost impossible to distinguish a kleptomaniac from a real thief by appearance and behavior. All the symptoms are kept in the addict’s consciousness. They are the following:

  • No motivation connected with personal benefit;
  • Feeling of extreme tension before the theft, pleasure during the process of stealing and relaxation afterwards;
  • Committing a theft alone, without accomplices;
  • Frequent failed attempts to prevent the steal;
  • Shame and remorse after stealing;
  • Acts of theft are committed casually, not every day, and alternated with periods of remission.

Kleptomaniacs never steal for some benefit, enrichment or desire to revenge. The people, who suffer from pathological stealing, will never plan their thefts unlike criminal thieves, but do it spontaneously.

Kleptomaniacs throw away stolen goods, for these things won’t remind them of their asocial and shameful acts. Sometimes they give stolen items away to relatives and friends or even secretly give back to a legal owner.

Why is kleptomania so dangerous?

Besides a risk of being caught in the act of stealing and brought to justice, kleptomaniacs suffer from many mental disorders and accompanying dependences. Obsessed thieves understand it quite clear – there is nothing good in stealing things of other people, but can’t help doing it and feel weakness, shame, uncertainty and aversion towards themselves. This comes to neuroses, depressions, complexes and phobias.

The most fearful in this situation is the constant sense of guilt, which often pushes the kleptomaniac to other kinds of addiction – to alcohol, drugs, games etc. Gradually the patient may fall out of touch with people, including all his friends and relatives (because nobody likes to keep in touch with a thief). To all that kleptomaniacs are inclined to suicidal behavior and self-destruction.

Kleptomania diagnosis

Kleptomania was considered a mental disease long ago; in International Coding System MB-10 it has a code number F63.2. First kleptomania was diagnosed in the USA with the help of special questionary. If the patient answers the most of questions affirmative, he is proved to have addiction to pathological stealing. The method described is not widespread in our country yet.

Criteria of kleptomania diagnosis include the following points:

  • Impossibility to resist desire of stealing something;
  • Feeling of tension makes an addict commit a theft;
  • Pleasure and joy at the moment of stealing;
  • Absence of selfish ends, feeling of revenge, alcohol or drug intoxication;
  • Theft doesn’t have any other reasons connected with mental disturbance like bipolar illness, antisocial disorder and so on.

Physical diagnosis of kleptomania represents encephaloscopy, destined for revealing pathological changes and injuries of one’s brain; the method includes biochemical blood assay and complete blood count to confirm a diagnosis.

Pathological stealing treatment

Shame because of dependence makes the treatment of kleptomaniacs difficult. But such people need help, as they can’t overcome their addiction to pathological stealing independently. Kleptomania demands combination therapy and includes psychotherapy and drug therapy.

Conversations with the psychologist may help the patient to find the reason of his strange pathological behavior, realize negative changes in own personality and correct them. Behavioral therapy allows him to change wrong behavioral installations for positive and learn to avoid stressful situations.

Among the pharmaceuticals sedatives, antidepressants, lithium medicines and anticonvulsants can be widely used. Naltrexone is very effective against such dependence, as it depresses dopamine production during committing a theft, and that gradually decreases the pathological desire to steal.

Dosage and duration of the course are prescribed individually. Probably the patient will need to change the quantity and combination of the drugs to achieve the best therapeutic result.

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