Kleptomania: clinical characteristics and treatment

OBJECTIVES: Kleptomania, a disabling impulse control disorder, is characterized by the repetitive and uncontrollable theft of items that are of little use to the afflicted person. Despite its relatively long history, kleptomania remains poorly understood to the general public, clinicians, and sufferers. METHOD: This article reviews the literature for what is known about the clinical characteristics, family history, neurobiology, and treatment options for individuals with kleptomania. RESULTS: Kleptomania generally has its onset in late adolescence or early adulthood and appears to be more common among women. Lifetime psychiatric comorbidity is frequent, mainly with other impulse control (20-46%), substance use (23-50%) and mood disorders (45-100%). Individuals with kleptomania suffer significant impairment in their ability to function socially and occupationally. Kleptomania may respond to cognitive behavioral therapy and various pharmacotherapies (lithium, anti-epileptics, and opioid antagonists). CONCLUSIONS: Kleptomania is a disabling disorder that results in intense shame, as well as legal, social, family, and occupational problems. Large scale treatment studies are needed.

Impulse control disorders; Pharmacotherapy; Comorbidity; Theft; Study characteristics


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