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Pyromania is an intense obsession with fire, explosives, and their related effects. It is also an obsession with starting fires in an intentional fashion. An individual with pyromania is referred to as a pyromaniac or "pyro" for short. In colloquial English, the synonyms "firebug" and "firestarter" are sometimes used. Pyromaniacs are identified specifically as not having any other symptoms but obsession with fire causing their behavior. It is distinct from arson, and pyromaniacs are also distinct from those who start fires because of psychoses, for personal, monetary or political gain, or for acts of revenge. Pyromaniacs start fires to induce euphoria, and often tend to fixate on institutions of fire control: fire stations, firefighters, etc.


Starting in 1850, there have been many arguments as to the cause of pyromania. Whether the condition arises from mental illness or a moral deficiency has changed depending on the development of psychiatry and mental healthcare in general.[1]


There is little known about this impulse control disorder, except some research suggesting there is an environmental component arising in late childhood.[2] Few scientifically rigorous studies have been done on the subject, but psychosocial hypotheses suggest pyromania may be a form of communication from those with few social skills, or an ungratified sexuality for which setting fires is a symbolic solution. Medical research also suggests a possible link to reactive hypoglycemia or a decreased concentration of 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) in the cerebrospinal fluid.[3] Some biological similarities have been discovered, such as abnormalities in the levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, which could be related to problems of impulse control, and also low blood sugar levels.[4] Children who are pyromaniacs often have a history of cruelty to animals. They also frequently suffer from other behavior disorders and have learning disabilities and attention disorders. It is also one of the supposed three early signs of developing psychopathy (the MacDonald Triad). [4] Other studies have linked pyromania to child abuse. [4]

Symptoms and diagnosis

Pyromaniacs are known to have feelings of sadness and loneliness, followed by rage, which leads to the setting of fires as an outlet.[4]For a positive diagnosis, there must be purposeful setting of fire on at least two occasions. There is tension or arousal prior to the act, and gratification or relief when it is over. It is done for its own sake, and not for any other motivation. [5] In some cases it is all about the pleasure of seeing what other people have to do to extinguish the fire, and the pyromaniac may enjoy reading of the effects of what they have done. [4] Many arsonists claim that they just like to set fires for the sake of fires and the blaze of dancing flames. Many pyromaniacs feel a relief of stress in watching things burn or smother, and the condition is fueled by the need to watch objects burn.

Incidence and demographics

Pyromania is a very rare disorder, and the incident of it is less than one percent in most studies; also, pyromaniacs are a very small proportion of psychiatric hospital admissions.[6] Pyromania can occur in children as young as age three, but it is rare in adults and rarer in children. Only a small percentage of children and adolescents arrested for arson have pyromania. Ninety percent of those diagnosed with Pyromania are male.[4] Based on a survey of 9282 Americans using the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders, 4th edition, impulse-control problems such as gambling and pyromania affect 9% of the population.[7] And a 1979 study by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration found that only 14 percent of fires were started by pyromaniacs and others with mental illness.[8]


Behavior modification is the usual treatment for pyromania.Other treatments include seeing the patients actions as an unconscious process and analyzing it to help the patient extinguish the behavior. Often, this treatment is followed by a more psychodynamic approach that addresses the underlying problems that generated the negative emotions causing the mania.[4] The prognosis for treatment is generally fair to poor.[2] Treatment appears to work in 95% of children that exhibit signs of pyromania, which include family therapy and community intervention. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are also used to treat this condition.[4]


Although there is a treatment for people who already suffer pyromania, there are no known preventive treatments or measures for impulse control disorders.[4]

Main articles

Main article: Pyromania - History of the disorder.
Main article: Pyromania - Theoretical approaches.
Main article: Pyromania - Epidemiology.
Main article: Pyromania - Risk factors.
Main article: Pyromania - Etiology.
Main article: Pyromania - Assessment.
Main article: Pyromania - Comorbidity.
Main article: Pyromania - Treatment.
Main article: Pyromania - Relapse prevention
Main article: Pyromania - Prognosis.
Main article: Pyromania - Service user page.
Main article: Pyromania - Carer page.

See Also


  1. Geller JL, Erlen J, Pinkus RL (1986). A historical appraisal of America's experience with "pyromania"--a diagnosis in search of a disorder. National Institutes of Health. URL accessed on 2006-06-15.
  2. 2.0 2.1 (2003). Psychiatric Disorders:Pyromania. All Psych Online. URL accessed on 2006-06-15.
  3. (March 5th, 2004). Pyromania. URL accessed on 2006-06-15.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Gale Research (1998.). Impulse Control Disorders. Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood & Adolescence. URL accessed on 2006-06-15. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Gale" defined multiple times with different content
  5. (July 21st, 2003). Pyromania (firestarting). PsychNet-UK. URL accessed on 2006-06-15.
  6. (March 1st, 2005). The arsonist's mind: part 2 - pyromania. Australian Government:Australian Institute of Criminology. URL accessed on 2006-06-15.
  7. Alspach, Grif (August, 2005). 1-2-3-4 … mental illness out the door?. Critical Care Nurse. URL accessed on 2006-06-15.
  8. Smith, Thomas E. (October 1st, 1999). The Risk of Fire - Statistical Data Included. Risk & Insurance. URL accessed on 2006-06-15.

Further reading

Key texts – Books

Additional material – Books

Key texts – Papers

Additional material - Papers

External links

External links


Pyromania: Academic support materials

  • Pyromania: Lecture slides
  • Pyromania: Lecture notes
  • Pyromania: Lecture handouts
  • Pyromania: Multimedia materials
  • Pyromania: Other academic support materials
  • Pyromania: Anonymous fictional case studies for training

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

Pyromania: Epidemiology

Pyromania in children is rare.

Juvenile fire setting is usually associated with other conditions such as Conduct Disorder, ADHD, or Adjustment Disorder.

Pyromania occurs more commonly in males, especially those with poor social skills and learning difficulties.

  • Pyromania: incidence
  • Pyromania: prevalence
  • Pyromania: morbidity
  • Pyromania: mortality
  • Pyromania: racial distribution
  • Pyromania: age distribution
  • Pyromania: sex distribution

Pyromania: Risk factors

  • Pyromania: known evidence of risk factors
  • Pyromania: theories of possible risk factors

Pyromania: Etiology

  • Pyromania: known evidence of causes
  • Pyromania: theories of possible causes

Pyromania: Diagnosis & evaluation

  • Pyromania: assessment tests
  • Pyromania: differential diagnosis
  • Pyromania: evaluation protocols

Pyromania: Treatment

  • outcome studies
  • Pyromania: treatment protocols
  • Pyromania: treatment considerations
  • Pyromania: evidenced based treatment
  • Pyromania: theory based treatment
  • Pyromania: team working considerations
  • Pyromania: followup

Pyromania: For people with this difficulty

  • Pyromania: user:how to get help
  • Pyromania: user:self help materials
  • Pyromania: user:useful reading
  • Pyromania: user:useful websites

Pyromania: For their carers

Pyromania is extremely dangerous to the person with the disorder as well as to others. If you suspect that someone you care about may have pyromania, ask your primary healthcare provider for a referral to a mental health professional as soon as possible.

  • Pyromania: carer:how to get help
  • Pyromania:carer:useful reading
  • Pyromania: carer:useful websites