Pyromania

Pyromania is characterized as an impulse control disorder. It is defined as a sudden urge to start fires in order to relieve stress and tension and provide a sense of relief and gratification. This name of this disorder originates from the Greek language, whereby the word ‘pyr’ means fire. Pyromania differs from arson, monetary, personal and/or political gains, feelings of revenge and the intention to cause harm to someone. If you suffer from pyromania, you deliberately start fires in order to acquire a feeling of euphoria. You tend to fixate on specific fire-related locations such as fire stations. Pyromania is best described as an obsession with starting fires.

Epidemiology:

Pyromania is a rare but significant disorder. This disorder affects even less than 1% of the general population. Although rare, this condition can affect children as young as three years old. A very small percentage of adolescents or children causing are diagnosed with this disorder.

Pyromania primarily affects males. Approximately 90% males suffer from pyromania. In addition approximately 9% of Americans suffer from impulse control problems such as compulsive shopping, gambling and/or pyromania. Out of all reported cases of fire emergencies 14% are caused pyromaniacs. Some of the most commonly used synonyms for pyromania in the English language include: “fire starter” and “firebug”. Pyromania differs from arson, in the fact that arsonist start fires for the purpose of revenge or vengeance, while pyromaniacs start fires for personal gratification.

Causes:

The exact cause of pyromania is unknown at this time, but environmental factors appear to play a significant role in its development and progression. Environmental factors associated with pyromania include: past experiences, sexual and/or physical abuse and/or parental neglect or abandonment. In addition, personal issues can trigger pyromania. For instance, if you have, at some point in your past, committed a crime, you have a higher risk of becoming a pyromaniac then someone with no past history of crimes. Over 19% of diagnosed pyromaniacs have been charged with vandalism at one time in their life, while approximately 18% have been convicted of non-violent sexual offenses. Less common causes of pyromania include: seeking attention and acceptance from others and/or being bullied during childhood. Revenge for something that happened in the past may also be a possible cause of pyromaniac behavior.

Warning Signs:

Specific warning signs separate pyromaniacs from arsonists. If you suffer from pyromania, you deliberately set fires and you cannot control your impulse to set the fires. You may also feel excitement when you set the fires. Furthermore, you probably experience overwhelming tension before setting the fire and intense relief or gratification while watching the fire blaze. You tend to be obsessed and/or fascinated with fires. This condition usually presents during adolescences, but it can also manifest during adulthood.

Treatments:

The treatment of the condition varies depending on your age and the seriousness of the disorder. If you are a child or adolescent, the treatment may involve cognitive behavioral therapy. A cognitive behavioral therapist observes your behaviors and helps you recognize and understand the root of your impulsive behaviors. Multiple sessions may assist you in the recovery process. Your therapist may also meet with your parents. The purpose of this meeting is to explain to them how important it is to keep their other children safe. The meeting will also remind your parents to keep all hazardous and flammable materials out of the home during and following treatment.

References:

Everall, A. L. & Paul, I. (1990). Fire-setting in an adolescent boy with asperger’s syndrome. British Journal of Psychiatry.

Grant J. E. & Won, K. S. (2007). Clinical characteristics and psychiatric comorbidity of pyromania. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18052565.

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