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The basics of kleptomania

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2020 | Theft |

Our ancestors engaged in theft many centuries ago and today people continue to steal for many reasons.  The most understandable reason people steal is for the need of food or money, but people also steal for more complicated and less understandable reasons.

Kleptomania, though rare, presents a tough case for the legal community as well as for individuals and families faced with this illness.

Explanation of kleptomania

The Mayo Clinic defines kleptomania as a recurrent inability to resist the urge to steal items. It is a unique form of theft, and meets the definition of a mental disorder, falling into the category of an impulse control disorder. No cure exists for this disorder, though medications and therapy often prove helpful in decreasing the urge to steal without need. The presence of these actions often  identify kleptomaniacs:

       Stealing without planning

       Steal from public places and from friends

       Stealing items that have no personal value to them

       Stashing away the stolen items

       Experiencing uncontrollable urges to steal

Kleptomaniacs often experience intense shame for their activities. They should see a doctor whenever the disorder negatively impacts their lives and mental health.

Use of kleptomania as a defense

A report by 11live news discusses whether kleptomania is a valid legal defense. The case in question involved an 86-year-old woman who stole a small amount of items from a store. At one time, she engaged in much larger crimes, but she apparently stole some items she did not need, raising the possibility that she had kleptomania. She was on parole at the time of the theft, and she has a long history of theft.

Experts stated that a kleptomania defense would hinge on the mental illness of the defendant, but this type of defense seldom occurs due to the rareness of the disease. Less than one percent of the population have the disorder.


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