What Age Group Does Kleptomania Affect The Most?

What Age Group Does Kleptomania Affect The Most?

Kleptomania is a psychiatric disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic condition. It is characterized by a recurrent inability to resist the impulse or urge to steal superfluous, meaningless items that usually have little value. A kleptomaniac will essentially be unable to circumvent the urge to steal, even items that they do not need. Kleptomania is distinguishable from other types of shoplifting because typical shoplifters will plan out their thefts, often stealing items of value that they need or desire but cannot afford. In contrast, a kleptomaniac will not plan out their thefts, instead of acting upon impulse, and is more likely to steal items of little value or use. The precise cause of kleptomania remains unknown, but researchers suggest it is likely due to a combination of genetics, neurotransmitter abnormalities, and the presence of other psychiatric conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse disorder, and others. The prevalence of kleptomania in America is unknown but has been estimated to occur in 0.3%—0.6% of the population. Approximately two-thirds of people diagnosed with kleptomania are female. 

There is no exact age at which kleptomania begins, nor is there a specific age group that it most affects. A person with kleptomania typically begins showing symptoms in their late teens or early adult years. The average onset age of kleptomania is 17 years old, but about one-third of people diagnosed with kleptomania report that they started showing symptoms of the disorder as children, some as young as five years old. Although the onset is usually in adolescence the average age for presentation for treatment is 35 years for women and 50 years for men.

Diagnostic Criteria

Kleptomania is typically diagnosed by a physician or mental health professional. The evaluating provider considers the diagnostic criteria for kleptomania, provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. To be diagnosed with kleptomania, according to the DSM-5, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal objects that are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value. 
  2. Increasing sense of tension immediately before committing the theft. 
  3. Pleasure, gratification, or relief at the time of committing the theft. 
  4. The stealing is not committed to expressing anger or vengeance and is not in response to a delusion or a hallucination. 
  5. The stealing is not better accounted for by conduct disorder, a manic episode, or antisocial personality disorder.

Obtaining an accurate diagnosis is essential to the recovery process for any mental health illness. Although kleptomania is a chronic condition, meaning there is no known cure, with proper treatment a young person can learn to effectively manage its symptoms.

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