At What Age Does Kleptomania Begin?

At What Age Does Kleptomania Begin?

Kleptomania is a chronic mental health disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as one of the five standalone impulse control disorders. Psychiatric Times asserts “impulse control disorders are common psychiatric conditions in which affected individuals typically report significant impairment in social and occupational functioning and may incur legal and financial difficulties as well.” According to the Mayo Clinic, kleptomania is characterized by an inability to control the impulse or urge to steal superfluous, meaningless items that usually have little value. It is often accompanied by other psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse disorder, etc. However, it can also appear on its own. There is no exact age at which kleptomania begins. Rather studies have found that it most commonly begins in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, but can present in adults. While the precise cause of kleptomania remains unknown, researchers suggest it is likely due to a combination of genetics, neurotransmitter abnormalities, and the presence of other psychiatric conditions. 

Signs and Symptoms

Akin to many other mental disorders, kleptomania begins with an inability to control one’s own behaviors. A teen with kleptomania is unable to control the impulse to commit acts that may be harmful to themselves or others. The Cleveland Clinic provides examples of signs and symptoms of kleptomania, some of which include the following:

  • Recurrent impulses to steal
  • Escalated sense of pressure prior to stealing
  • Instances of stealing objects which have little or no value
  • Feelings of relief, pleasure, and gratification when an object is stolen
  • Pathological lying
  • Thefts cannot be explained by other disorders

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 usually not plan out their thefts, instead of acting upon impulse, and is more likely to steal things of little value or use. Although it is relatively rare, kleptomania is a serious mental health disorder, and the symptoms of kleptomania have the propensity to lead to severe short and long-term consequences

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