Despite being frequently referenced, there is still a lot that’s misunderstood about kleptomania. Kleptomania refers to a disorder where someone has compulsive urges to steal. When someone with kleptomania steals they’re doing it only to fulfill their urge to steal, not because the object their stealing has perceived value. This rare mental health disorder can cause serious legal, social and financial consequences when left untreated.

Kleptomania FAQs

Be empowered with knowledge, whether you struggle with kleptomania or your loved one does. Find answers to questions with the following kleptomania FAQs.

No, people who have kleptomania aren’t inherently dangerous. However, the disorder can place people in confrontational situations, which could be dangerous. Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder that involves a desire to steal objects or money, even if the person does not want or need them.

In most cases, people who have kleptomania will attempt to avoid confrontation or violence and are not a significant threat to other people. The act of theft typically only puts the person who is stealing in harm’s way. However, if the theft is seen and confronted, the person who has kleptomania could become defensive.

No. There is a difference between a disease and a disorder. According to the British Medical Journal, diseases are the pathophysiological response to certain factors. Disorders are the disease’s disruption to the normal function of the body.

Kleptomania is a rare disorder, specifically an impulse control disorder that urges people to steal things they do not want or need. Kleptomania is commonly associated with shoplifting. Kleptomania can affect a person’s relationships with friends, family members or people at their place of employment. Many people who have kleptomania struggle with the disorder because they don’t want to have the impulse to steal things. However, the impulse can overwhelm their decision-making process.

While addiction is commonly linked to drug or alcohol abuse, kleptomania is similar in many ways to substance use disorders. People who struggle with kleptomania experience overwhelming impulses to steal objects, even ones they don’t need or want. The desire to take things that aren’t theirs — either from friends, family members or businesses — can be pleasurable and fulfill the impulse. The act of stealing can result in excitement leading up to and during the event, which is similar to a dopamine rush experienced by drug users. Likewise, people who have kleptomania often feel guilty after their theft, another common trait shared with people who regularly abuse drugs or alcohol.

No. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, kleptomania is not included as a physical or mental disability that is protected by civil rights under the act. However, kleptomania can have an impact on people’s lives. Someone who has kleptomania often struggles to function in specific settings where they have an impulse to steal things. Even if the person does not want or need an object, they may have a desire to steal it to appease their impulse. This impulse can override all decision-making processes and result in job loss, damaged relationships and an overwhelming sense of guilt. Additionally, people who are aware of their kleptomania may avoid specific settings where the impulse could arise, which is one way that the disorder could affect their daily lives.

Whether a court considers kleptomania as a legal defense depends on numerous factors, including the state where the case is heard. Different states have varied laws regarding insanity as a legal defense to charges. In some states, kleptomania could be viewed as a form of insanity due to the loss of impulse control.