Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder whereby individuals cannot resist the urge to steal items of little to no value. Learn about the different kinds of kleptomania treatment options.
For individuals diagnosed with kleptomania, the choice to seek treatment may be a quite difficult one. In some cases, individuals may fear legal repercussions or ramifications if they end up seeking treatment. However, the mental, physical and emotional cost of not seeking treatment can far outweigh some of the legal troubles a person fears.
Kleptomania treatment usually involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy approaches. There are various treatment options for kleptomania that can be effective. Not every treatment will work equally well for all individuals diagnosed with kleptomania. Thus, treatment plans for kleptomania can be individualized and tailored to a person’s underlying mental health issues including addiction.
It should be stated that there is no specific “cure” for kleptomania. Thus, it is advised that individuals with kleptomania should focus on managing rather than expecting to cure their condition. Several medications may be helpful for individuals with kleptomania based on their mechanisms of action. Kleptomania medications most commonly prescribed by medical professionals include:
- Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it outcompetes opioids (e.g. heroin, fentanyl) for binding to opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of the body. Naltrexone may also reduce a person with kleptomania’s desire to steal.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants can be used to treat kleptomania. These drugs work by stabilizing an individual’s moods and can also benefit individuals with kleptomania. By preventing the neurotransmitter serotonin from getting reabsorbed, SSRIs allow for increased amounts of serotonin to be available for signaling in the brain. SSRIs decrease anxiety and depression over time.
- Mood Stabilizers: Mood stabilizers historically have been used to treat conditions like bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder. Similar to SSRIs, mood stabilizers may help an individual with kleptomania stabilize their moods, ultimately decreasing their desire to steal.
For individuals with kleptomania, using medication in combination with psychotherapy may be even more beneficial than one treatment type alone. Many kleptomania psychotherapies focus on various tactics and behavioral strategies that mitigate a person’s desire to steal. Kleptomania treatment therapies include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is the main form of psychotherapy that is used for treating kleptomania and many other mental health conditions. Specifically, CBT for kleptomania involves first recognizing behavioral patterns that are harmful (e.g. stealing) and then how to modify harmful behaviors.
- Systematic Desensitization: Systematic desensitization is a form of CBT that involves desensitizing individuals with kleptomania to situations that make them uncomfortable. The overall goal is to make individuals more comfortable with not stealing. Namely, a person would practice relaxation or coping techniques with their therapist by picturing themselves resisting the urge to steal.
- Aversion Therapy: Aversion therapy for kleptomania may be helpful as a way to distract individuals or dissuade them from stealing. Aversion therapy is used as a means of controlling urges to steal through the practice of somewhat painful techniques. For example, an individual may train with their therapist to hold their breath, or pinch their skin when the feel the desire to steal.
- Covert Sensitization: Covert sensitization employs similar methods to systematic desensitization and aversion therapy. Namely, a person with kleptomania learns to dissuade themselves from stealing over time by constantly picturing the negative consequences associated with getting caught.
Treating Kleptomania and Co-Occurring Disorders
Kleptomania can often co-occur with other mental health conditions. However, many mental health conditions including addiction can be treated using some of the same strategies as those employed in the treatment of kleptomania.
There are many overlapping treatments between kleptomania and other conditions such as compulsive gambling, substance addictions, personality disorders, depression and anxiety. Understanding and addressing the root causes of kleptomania may be difficult. However, many of these mental health conditions involve problems with impulse control. It is important for individuals with kleptomania to realize that they are not a lost cause and they should not fear asking for help or receiving treatment.
If you or a loved one struggle with kleptomania and a co-occurring addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Contact a representative today to discuss treatment options for kleptomania and addiction together.
The Mayo Clinic. “Kleptomania: Diagnosis and Treatment.” October 21, 2017. Accessed July 31, 2019.
Grant, JE; Kim SW and Odlaug, BL. “A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study[…]ment of Kleptomania.” Biological Psychiatry, April 1, 2009. Accessed August 28, 2019.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.