Psychological Studies on Shoplifting and Kleptomania

Shoplifting is clearly a psychological issue for many people. Shoplifting for most individuals is rarely about greed or poverty. It’s about people struggling with their own personal conflicts and needs.

The single largest psychological factor found in approximately 1/3 of shoplifters studied is “depression”. This helps to explain why so many individuals steal from stores on their birthday and/or around holiday times.

The more intense form of shoplifting is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as an “Impulse Disorder” known as Kleptomania. For this classification, the patient must meet the following five criteria to justify this diagnosis.

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

  2. Increasing sense of tension immediately before committing the theft.

  3. Pleasure or relief at the time of committing the theft.

  4. Stealing is not committed to express anger or vengeance and is not in response to a delusion or hallucination.

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

Today, kleptomania is considered far more prevalent than originally believed.


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