December 6, 2021


Kleptomania, an impulse control disorder, causes an irresistible urge to steal. Learn more.

Kleptomania is a type of impulse control disorder in which an individual is unable to resist urges or impulses to perform acts that could potentially harm themselves or others. In the case of kleptomania the impulse is to steal items that you really don’t need or that have little to no value. The root cause of impulse control disorders are problems with emotional or behavioral self control.


Kleptomania often manifests in the following symptoms:

  1. Unable to resist urges to steal things you do not need
  2. Feeling tension or anxiety leading up to stealing
  3. A feeling of pleasure or relief when stealing
  4. Feeling guilt, remorse, shame, or self-hate after stealing
  5. A continuous cycle of 1-4

Causes of Kleptomania 

There is no known cause for kleptomania but a few possible causes may include: 

  1. Low levels of serotonin: Those with impulsive behaviors often have low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate emotions and mood 
  2. Addictive disorders: Stealing may cause the release of dopamine (the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasurable feelings). Those with addictive disorders may try to seek out this release over and over again
  3. Opioid system: Any imbalance in this system of the brain my make urges harder to resist


Treatments for impulse control disorders may including the following:

  • Psychotherapy is often used to unlearn patterns of behavior through methods such as covert sensitization, aversion therapy, or systematic desensitization
  • Prescription Medications may be used to treat the addiction through dosage of naltrexone, (an opioid antagonist), an antidepressant, or a combination of medications