The cause of kleptomania isn't known. There are several theories that suggest that changes in the brain may be at the root of kleptomania. Kleptomania may be linked to problems with a naturally occurring brain chemical (neurotransmitter) called serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate moods and emotions. Low levels of serotonin are common in people prone to impulsive behaviors.
Kleptomania also may be related to addictive disorders, and stealing may cause the release of dopamine (another neurotransmitter). Dopamine causes pleasurable feelings, and some people seek this rewarding feeling again and again.
Other research has found that kleptomania can occur after someone sustains a head injury. More research is needed to better understand all of these possible causes of kleptomania.
Oct. 05, 2011
- Kleptomania. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed Aug. 22, 2011.
- Hollander E, et al. Impulse-control disorders not elsewhere classified. In: Hales RE, et al., eds. The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. 5th ed. Washington, D.C..: American Psychiatric Association; 2008.
- Grant JE. Understanding and treating kleptomania: New models and new treatments. Israeli Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences. 2006;43:81.
- Thompson JW Jr, et al. Impulse-control disorders. In: Ebert MH, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Psychiatry. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=10. Accessed Aug. 22, 2011.
- Bayle FJ, et al. Psychopathology and comorbidity of psychiatric disorders in patients with kleptomania. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2003;160:1509.
- Grant JE, et al. Legal consequences of kleptomania. Psychiatry Quarterly. 2009;80:251.