Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Although fear, humiliation or embarrassment may make it difficult for you to seek treatment for kleptomania, it's important to get help. Kleptomania is difficult to overcome on your own. Treatment of kleptomania typically involves medications and psychotherapy, perhaps along with self-help groups. However, there's no standard kleptomania treatment, and researchers are still trying to understand what may work best. You may have to try several types of kleptomania treatment to find something that works well for your situation.

Medications

There's little solid scientific research about using psychiatric medications to treat kleptomania. However, certain medications may be helpful. Which medication is best for you depends on your overall situation and other conditions you may have, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. You may benefit from taking a combination of medications. Medications to consider include:
  • Antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used to treat kleptomania. These include fluoxetine (Prozac, Prozac Weekly), paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR), fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR) and others.
  • Mood stabilizers. These medications are meant to even out your mood so that you don't have rapid or uneven changes that may trigger urges to steal. One mood stabilizer used to treat kleptomania is lithium (Lithobid).
  • Anti-seizure medications. Although originally intended for seizure disorders, these medications have shown benefits in certain mental health disorders, possibly including kleptomania. Examples include topiramate (Topamax) and valproic acid (Depakene, Stavzor).
  • Addiction medications. Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol), known technically as an opioid antagonist, blocks the part of your brain that feels pleasure with certain addictive behaviors. It may reduce the urges and pleasure associated with stealing.

You may have to try several different medications or combinations of medications to see what works best for you with the fewest side effects. Keep in mind that it may take several weeks to notice full benefits. Talk to your doctor or mental health provider if you're bothered by side effects. Under his or her guidance, you may be able to switch medications or change your dosage. Many side effects eventually go away.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy has become the psychotherapy of choice for kleptomania. In general, cognitive behavioral therapy helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. Cognitive behavioral therapy may include these techniques to help you overcome kleptomania urges:

  • Covert sensitization, in which you picture yourself stealing and then facing negative consequences, such as being caught
  • Aversion therapy, in which you practice mildly painful techniques, such as holding your breath until you become uncomfortable, when you get an urge to steal
  • Systematic desensitization, in which you practice relaxation techniques and picture yourself controlling urges to steal

Other forms of therapy, such as psychodynamic therapy, family therapy or marriage counseling, also may be helpful.

Avoiding relapses

It's not unusual to have relapses of kleptomania. To help avoid relapses, be sure to stick to your treatment plan. If you feel urges to steal, contact your mental health provider or reach out to a trusted support group.

Oct. 05, 2011