Kleptomania is a mental health condition that involves a recurrent and uncontrollable need to steal items. These stolen items are generally non-essential or of little value and can easily be brought with one’s own money. It is a rare condition and is often characterized as an impulse control disorder by experts.
This disorder can be classified as an addiction, as kleptomaniacs suffer from poor self-control and have an immense impulse or an urge to steal. The act of stealing is usually accompanied by feelings of pleasure in certain scenarios, which might act as a catalyst for addiction. Several studies have also shown that this condition may be closely associated with substance abuse disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Mental health disorders like this can be highly disruptive to your way of life and have dire effects on you and your loved ones. Read on to discover what characterizes this disorder and how to cope with these feelings.
A Brief Overview
Kleptomania refers to the continual impulse or the compulsion to steal things. Kleptomaniacs often target small, worthless, and unnecessary items that hardly hold any value and are of no personal use. You may suffer from low impulse control and have the inability to resist the urges that you get. This may lead you to perform unethical and harmful activities. You may also experience feelings of guilt, remorse, or shame about stealing and may end up returning or donating the stolen objects.
This is a rare medical condition and requires systematic treatment. There is no definitive age at which this occurs, and it can happen to anyone at any time. It can amount to immense emotional pain and criminal activities if left undiagnosed. While there is no known cause for this ailment, researchers believe certain risk factors might influence your impulsive behavior. A few possible causes include the following:
- There might be an imbalance in the biochemical or neurological sectors of the brain. This is a major cause of this disorder.
- Suffering from other mental health issues such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorders, mood or personality disorders, an eating disorder, or OCD. Kleptomaniacs usually have low self-esteem and may suffer from an antisocial personality disorder.
- Abnormalities in the brain’s opioid system. The opioid system is responsible for controlling pain, reward, and addictive behaviors.
- A family history of addiction or a past case of kleptomania in the family.
- Psychological trauma from a young age may increase your risk of developing this condition.
Simply put, kleptomaniacs steal because they are unable to resist their impulses. They might be suffering from low inhibitory control. Look for the symptoms listed below if you feel you or your loved one might be suffering from this mental health disorder:
- You may feel some tension or anxiety before stealing. Once you have stolen the object, you may experience pleasurable feelings and a sense of relief. This is one of the main reasons for addiction.
- The items you steal may be worthless to you without any personal gain. If you wanted to, you could easily afford to buy out the product.
- Once the high from stealing the object fades, feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing might set in. This may lead you to hoard, donate, throw or return the stolen items.
- Kleptomania symptoms also include suffering from intense behavioral issues. In rare cases, you may be a victim of conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, or mood disorder and may experience suicidal thoughts.
We must note here that kleptomania differs from ordinary theft.
How is it Different From Stealing?
While both kleptomania and stealing involve taking somebody else’s items without permission or legal rights, there are some integral differences between the two.
Kleptomaniacs mainly steal due to a lack of impulse control. They do not have ulterior motives and are generally influenced by the pleasurable feelings they might receive afterward. They don’t make any prior plans to steal and are mainly driven by the strong urges that they get. Usually, kleptomaniacs are able to afford the items they take and are aware of the legal consequences they might face.
Stealing, however, can involve taking objects due to their monetary value. You may steal due to the thrill of it. Criminal thefts might be planned ahead of time and may involve other people. Often, people who steal cannot afford the objects they have stolen. They might even steal these items because they have some need for them.
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What to Know About Behavioral Addictions
Addiction can take up many forms and is not only limited to substance abuse addictions. It can show up as gambling addiction, stealing addiction, or even an extreme addiction to the internet.
Behavioral addiction involves an intense compulsion to perform certain actions repeatedly to derive pleasure from them or to combat stress, depression, or anxiety. You may form a behavioral addiction similar to other mental disorders, such as an alcohol or drug addiction. This may include an addiction to your phone, games, or even food. You may seek comfort through these channels due to the serotonin your brain releases, and you may become dependent on those things. Read on to find out how our brains function when it comes to behavioral addictions.
Behavioral addictions occur when the activity you engage in produces neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and opiates. These neurochemicals create a pleasurable feeling or a certain kind of high. If you repetitively engage in the same activity, these receptors may become irregular. Our brain contains a reward system that gets activated whenever we engage in a rewarding or pleasurable activity. To avoid withdrawal, you may seek a continuous high and engage in the activity to stimulate the reward center. You may engage in these activities repetitively despite the negative consequences that may occur.
Certain signs of a behavioral addiction may include spending vast amounts of time repeating the same behavior, having trouble at work or school, inability to concentrate, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness, anxiety, etc., while trying to stop.
Kleptomania is a behavioral addiction and can affect your life in several ways.
Ways You Can Cope With These Feelings
While living with this disorder may be challenging, getting immediate help is key to diagnosing this condition appropriately. A combination of counseling, behavioral therapy, and medication can work wonders in treating this ailment. Here are a few ways you can try to combat these feelings:
- Acknowledge and understand that you may have a mental illness. Recognize what is triggering the impulse and journal all the feelings and thoughts that you may be experiencing. Notice all the changes happening in your body.
- Consider talking to your loved ones or your friends for constant support. You can also try out group therapies for a more significant impact.
- Be gentle towards yourself. You might face multiple setbacks on your journey to recovery, but always remember to be kind to yourself.
- Participate or engage in physical activities to relieve your stress and boost your mood. Try to avoid temptation and occupy yourself with your hobbies to rebalance the neurochemicals in your brain.
- Seek out cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychotherapy. This may help you address the underlying causes and relieve you from negative thought patterns.
- Apart from these, the doctor may provide some prescription medicines or antidepressants to the patient to cope with the mental illness.
Seek Help From a Trusted Therapist With DocVita Today
Living with addiction can cause immense emotional pain and damage your way of life. They can have lasting effects on you and your relationships. If you recognize the symptoms of this addiction in yourself or your dear ones, consider getting professional or medical help. DocVita consists of a range of specialists that could help you on your journey to recovery. Book yourself a specialist from the convenience of your home today!