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Kleptomania is a mental disorder in which various things are stolen many times. However, a Kleptomaniac does not steal food because he is hungry or some clothes because he needs them - he appropriates other things for himself only for the purpose of such an act. Find out about kleptomania, find out what causes it, and learn how to recognize it and what treatments can be offered to kleptomania.

Kleptomaniawas first described quite a long time ago, at the beginning of the 19th century. The term is derived from two Greek words: "klepto" (to steal) and "mania" (crazy desire). This is what kleptomania is all about - this problem is related to the unbridled need to commit various thefts.

Although kleptomania has been talked about for a long time, to this day it raises a lot of controversy - just as some authors classify it as a mental disorder (where it is located among disorders of habit and impulse control, such as pathological gambling or pyromania) , so others say that theft is simply theft and you should not explain a prohibited act by the occurrence of mental disorders in a given person.

Causes of kleptomania

There are at least several different theories as to what causes kleptomania. Various psychological theories dominate among them. An example can be given here, for example, a psychodynamic approach, according to which undertaking the theft by a kleptomaniac would, in a way, fill a void existing in his psyche (the sources of which could lie even in some difficult events from his childhood).

The psychodynamic theory also assumes that kleptomania may, in a way, constitute a defense mechanism - thefts and related emotions would prevent the appearance of various unpleasant (and most of all - unwanted) emotions and feelings in a person.

The causes of kleptomania, according to cognitive-behavioral therapists, would be different. Such specialists believe that the problem increases with subsequent thefts. Then, when a kleptomaniac appropriates someone else's things, it is accompanied by - at least initially - pleasant sensations. If he is not punished for it, the so-called positivereinforcements: the action brings a benefit, so it is repeated over and over again later.

There are, however, biological theories as to why people may develop kleptomania. They were mainly derived from the analysis of the effectiveness of drugs that are administered to patients suffering from kleptomania. Well, preparations that affect the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain can bring good results in kleptomaniacs.

For this reason, it is often assumed that kleptomania may be associated with deficiencies of certain neurotransmitters in the central nervous system - serotonin can be mentioned as an example of one of such substances.

Ultimately, however, the exact causes of kleptomania are simply unknown. It is much easier than describing the basis of this problem to characterize the features that occur in kleptomaniacs.

The frequency of this problem varies among representatives of different sexes - kleptomania is more common in women.

How to recognize kleptomania?

A person who steals a blouse in a clothing store that they cannot afford but would like to have is probably not a kleptomaniac. Characteristic for this disorder is that people with it - to put it simply - steal only to steal.

This can be illustrated with a simple example: a man suffering from kleptomania can go to a drugstore and steal a lipstick in it, which he will never use or give it to someone else. What's more - kleptomania often steal items that they do not need at all, and quite often right after the theft … they get rid of them.

So why do such people steal? Well, in the case of kleptomania, there are episodes of an irresistible need to appropriate things that are not your own. It may be related to a feeling of tension or internal breakdown.

A Kleptomaniac experiencing an episode of his illness may not be able to focus on anything - thoughts about theft may then even dominate his mind. In a situation where he crosses the threshold of the store and finally puts a product in his backpack or when he finally takes a small item from a friend's desk at work, he may feel relieved, and the tension experienced by him may subside.

It is definitely not, however, that kleptomania is a source of positive feelings. The tension that has already been mentioned can be extremely acute, in addition, when emotions related to theft subside - the kleptomaniac usually struggles with guilt.

In fact, kleptomania can be certainway to compare to various addictions. After all, whether it is in gamblers or alcoholics, there is so-called hunger - the former feel the need to play, the latter feel the need to drink alcohol. In the case of a kleptomaniac, hunger is about theft. All of them usually end up trying to stop themselves from playing, drinking or stealing - if left untreated, these attempts usually end in failure.

This kind of failure can be a cause of frustration or sadness, and when it is repeatedly experienced (i.e. when a kleptomaniac tries to fight his problem, which are fruitless), it poses a risk of additional he alth problems for a person psychological.

Worth knowing

Kleptomania is rarely the patient's only problem

Unfortunately, quite often kleptomaniacs struggle with mental disorders other than the unrestrained need to steal. The most common comorbidities of anxiety disorders, eating disorders and addiction to various psychoactive substances are found.

Another problem that often comes up with kleptomania is depression. Here, it is especially emphasized that it may precede impulse control disorders and occur later in the patient with them, but also it may develop after some time after the onset of kleptomania itself.

Yet another psychiatric problem that is sometimes associated with kleptomania is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This particular relationship is extremely interesting. Well, it has been suggested that kleptomania may actually belong to the so-called OCD spectrum disorders - constant thoughts about theft finally resemble obsessions, while the need to appropriate someone else's property can be compared to compulsions.

Kleptomania treatment

About the fact that the fight against kleptomania should be undertaken, no need to convince anyone - first of all, a person with this problem simply suffers, in addition, frequent thefts pose a threat that the legal consequences of such acts will eventually be addressed to him.

There are basically two treatment options for kleptomania: psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. Very different types of psychotherapy are sometimes recommended to kleptomaniacs - both psychodynamic therapy and psychoanalytic therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can help them.

The assumptions of each of the aforementioned therapies do not suit everyone, therefore, before starting any specific psychotherapy, it is worth getting acquainted with how it proceeds and choosing the one that seems most appropriate to our expectations.

Win the case of pharmacological treatment of kleptomania, the use of antidepressants from the group of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is primarily used. Other preparations that are sometimes recommended to kleptomaniacs are mood stabilizers (e.g. lithium s alts or valproic acid) and opioid receptor antagonists (e.g. n altrexone). There are also reports of the possible use of electroconvulsive therapy in the treatment of kleptomania.

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