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The essential feature of Kleptomania is the recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal items even though the items are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value. The diagnostic criteria for Kleptomania includes the following:

  • Recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal objects that are not needed for personal use or for their monetary value.

  • Increasing sense of tension immediately before committing the theft.

  • Pleasure, gratification, or relief at the time of committing the theft.

  • The stealing is not committed to express anger or vengeance and is not in response to a delusion or a hallucination.

  • The stealing is not better accounted for by Conduct Disorder, a Manic Episode, or Antisocial Personality Disorder.

    Associated Features

    Individuals with Kleptomania experience the impulse to steal as ego-dystonic and are aware that the act is wrong and senseless. The person frequently fears being apprehended and often feels depressed or guilty about the thefts. Kleptomania may be associated with compulsive buying as well as with Mood Disorders (especially Major Depressive Disorder), Anxiety Disorders, Eating Disorders (particularly Bulimia Nervosa), Personality Disorders, and other Impulse-Control Disorders.


      The disorder may begin in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood, and in rare cases in late adulthood. There is little systematic information on the course of Kleptomania, but three typical courses have been described: sporadic with brief episodes and long periods of remission; episodic with protracted periods of stealing and periods of remission; and chronic with some degree of fluctuation. The disorder may continue for years, despite multiple convictions for shoplifting

        Diagnostic criteria summarized from:

        American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

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