what is pyromania

When people use the word pyromania or pyromaniac, people think of it as something they heard of in a film, but it is a real mental health condition.  If someone is fascinated by fire or commits arson people may assume they have pyromania, this is not necessarily the case.  Arson is a crime, and pyromania is a very rare psychiatric condition that is not particularly well researched.  It affects men more than women and generally starts in their late teens or early adulthood.

Pyromania is an impulse control disorder and is characterised by a pathological and uncontrollable desire to start fires, as well as a fascination with all things fire related.  Impulse control or conduct disorders cause people to be aggressive towards people or their property.

They know that setting fires is both dangerous and illegal, but the act of starting a fire is the only way that they can relieve the build up of tension, anxiety or arousal that the condition causes.  Generally they will set a fire about every six weeks and they will feel extreme satisfaction and release after they have done so.


To be diagnosed with the condition a person must:

·      Be intensely attracted to fire and fire paraphernalia

·      Derive pleasure from either seeing or setting fires

·       Repeatedly and intentionally start fires

·      Feel tense or excited before starting a fire and feel relieved afterwards

·      Their symptoms can’t be explained by a manic episode, other conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder

They will not be diagnosed with pyromania if their reason for starting a fire was:

·      For some kind of monetary gain

·      To cover up a criminal act

·      Out of anger or vengeance

·      When suffering from hallucinations or delusions

·      For ideological reasons

·      When under the influence of alcohol or drugs


As there is limited research on the condition, the cause of pyromania is unknown, but certain factors can increase your risk of developing an impulse control or conduct disorder.  These can include:

·      A history of physical or sexual abuse

·      Having parents who suffer from addictions or have a history of breaking the law

·      Having a chemical imbalance in the brain which can affect how we feel and act

·      A history of mental health problems or drug and alcohol misuse

·      Being neglected as a child or having learning difficulties or poor social skills

·      Having a family history of psychiatric illness


People with impulse control disorders have a hard time controlling their behaviours and emotions.  Whilst on occasion we can all feel like this, they will feel this way, frequently and for much longer and in different situations, and it will cause them significant problems.

Professional Help

There is no single form of medication or therapy to treat pyromania, your doctor may prescribe a combination of medications and therapy.

These can include, anti-depressants or anxiety medications including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.  Anti-androgens, atypical antipsychotics or antiepileptic medication.

Therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), aversion therapy, family therapy and relaxation training.

Your doctor will ensure that your treatment is tailor made to treat your symptoms.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free Information click above link.