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Understanding and treating kleptomania: new models and new treatments.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota School of Medicine, 2450 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA.


Kleptomania, characterized by repetitive, uncontrollable stealing of items not needed for personal use, is a disabling disorder that often goes unrecognized in clinical practice. Although originally conceptualized as an obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder, emerging evidence (clinical characteristics, familial transmission, and treatment response) suggests that kleptomania may have important similarities to both addictive and mood disorders. In particular, kleptomania frequently co-occurs with substance use disorders, and it is common for individuals with kleptomania to have first-degree relatives who suffer from a substance use disorder. Additionally, there is some suggestion that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the treatment of choice for obsessive compulsive disorder, may lack efficacy for kleptomania. Instead, other medications (lithium, anti-epileptics, and opioid antagonists) have shown early promise in treating kleptomania. Evidence suggests that there may be subtypes of kleptomania that are more like OCD, whereas others have more similarities to addictive and mood disorders. Subtyping of individuals with kleptomania may be a useful way to better understand this behavior and decide on effective treatment interventions.

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