Phenomenology and Epidemiology of Kleptomania

Netta Shoenfeld and Pinhas N. Dannon

in The Oxford Handbook of Impulse Control Disorders

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195389715
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Phenomenology and Epidemiology of Kleptomania

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Stealing behaviors have been reported since the eighteenth century. However, only in 1952 was the phenomenon included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. While shoplifting and kleptomania share the same behavior, the motives behind each behavior differ significantly. Kleptomania is characterized as an incontrollable urge to steal, accompanied by mounting stress before committing the theft, followed by relief, guilt, and shame. Kleptomania seems to be a more female-dominant disorder, and the exact causes remain unknown. The explanations are broad, stretching from stressful childhood and low self-esteem to head trauma. It seems to be chronic, with exacerbations and remissions. Treatments vary from psychological approaches suggesting psychotherapy to pharmacological interventions with various medications. A combination of the two had been found to be the best treatment strategy. With the right diagnosis and treatment, there is hope for bettering the quality of life of people suffering from kleptomania.

Keywords: kleptomania; stealing; shoplifting; pharmacotherapy; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; SSRI; opiod receptors.

Article.  5354 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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