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Stopping Your Addiction to Stealing

Unknown-1Kleptomania is a serious impulse control disorder. It is a failure to resist urges to steal items that you don’t really need. It causes emotional pain to you and to loved ones if it is not treated and causes emotional or behavioral problems to self-control. Kleptomania makes a person feel guilty and ashamed and can lead you to having a criminal record. If you or someone you know is affected by kleptomania, try the following:


  • Inability to resist urges to steal items you do not need
  • Feeling pleasure or relief leading up to the theft
  • Feeling anxiety or tension leading up to theft
  • Urge is powerful and people cannot resist the urge to steal
  • Episodes of kleptomania occur spontaneously
  • The items have no value and the person can afford them
  • Urges to steal may come and go

How to Stop:

Therapy for kleptomania can be successful and there are actions you can take during and after therapy to help you.

1) Write down when you steal and how you feel. Look at the triggers that cause you to steal and rate the need to steal. Look at the correlation between what triggered your need to steal and the rating you are giving to the feeling.

2) Write about the need to steal and the feelings that accompany the need to steal

3) Write out the consequences to stealing

4) Tackle your feelings and acknowledge them to find new ways to deal with them other than through stealing

5) Reflect and start developing your goals for your life and start looking at what will prevent theses goals from becoming reality.

6) Think about who it is benefiting from stealing

7) Assert yourself and your needs. It is easy to use stealing as a form of revenge from people who have ignored you, picked on you and let you down. Remind yourself that the person who is hurting when you steal is you. You are not punishing them by stealing. Instead you are punishing yourself.

8) Use a plan to stop yourself in an attempt to steal- try to stop (give yourself room to breath), look (at your impulse and when you focus on it it is harder for it to take control), listen (and remind  yourself who you are and what your values are), relaxation techniques (use techniques such as visualization or breathing to calm your racing heart), think (of what you would do instead of stealing, think about what you would do with the item if you steal it, and think about the guilt you would have after you steal the item), plan (to change your behavior every time you have the urge to steal)

9) Distract yourself by finding positive alternatives to stealing. Whatever you choose make sure it is beneficial for you.


Treatment involve medications, therapy and self-help groups based on 12 step programs. Cognitive behavior therapy can help. Some of the techniques include aversion therapy, covert sensitization, and systematic desensitization.


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Stopping Your Addiction to Stealing

Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.

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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Stopping Your Addiction to Stealing. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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