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Kathryn Patricelli, MA

What is Pyromania?

Pyromania is classified in the DSM-5 in the category of Disruptive, Impulse-Control, and Conduct Disorders. All of the disorders in this category involve problems controlling behavior and emotions.

The symptom of this disorder include:

  • Deliberately and purposefully setting a fire more than one time.
  • Tension or emotional arousal being present before the act of setting the fire.
  • Having a fascination with, interest in, curiosity about, or attraction to fire and its uses and consequences. The person may be a "watcher" at neighborhood fires, set off false alarms, spend time at the local fire station and want to be associated with the department.
  • Feeling pleasure, relief or gratification when setting fires or when seeing the damage causes by and aftermath of the fire
  • The fires are not set for monetary gain, to cover up criminal activity, to express anger or vengeance, in response to any hallucinations or delusions, or as a result of impaired judgment (from another disorder or substance).
  • The fire setting is not better explained by conduct disorder, a manic disorder, or antisocial personality disorder.

How common is Pyromania?

It is not currently known what how common pyromania is, but it appears to be very rare as a main diagnosis. The lifetime prevalence for fire setting is just over 1% of the population, but simply setting fires alone is not enough to be diagnosed with pyromania, as all of the other symptoms must be present as well.

In those with the disorder, episodes can come and go over a period of time. Research has not been able to document a relationship between setting fires in childhood and pyromania in adulthood. Fires set during childhood or adolescence are often a result of conduct disorder or an adjustment disorder, and do not meet the criteria for pyromania.

Pyromania has been shown to occur much more commonly in males than in females, and especially in males with poorer social skills and learning difficulties.

What are the risk factors for Pyromania?

Risk factors for pyromania have not yet been identified.

What other disorders or conditions often occur with Pyromania?

Disorders that are most commonly seen with pyromania include substance use disorders, gambling disorder, depressive and bipolar disorders, and other disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders.

How is Pyromania treated?

There are two main treatments for this disorder, which are psychotherapy and medication.

Typically, this treatment involves cognitive behavioral therapy in which the therapist helps the person identify triggers that cause their desire to set fires and then teaches new coping skills to deal with those impulses. This may also include the use of exposure and response prevention and habit reversal training.

Medications that may be used include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics.