(Also Known As: Compulsive, Obsessive, Obsession With Starting Fires, Pyromaniac, Pyromaniacs)
(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)
What is Pyromania?
Pyromania is a condition characterized by the intentional setting of fires in order to derive pleasure or satisfaction and to relieve the tension that has built up prior to the setting of the fire. Pyromania comes from the Greek words pyro which means “fire” and mania meaning “loss of reason.” In DSM-IV-TR, Pyromania is classified as an impulse control disorder. This condition is marked by the failure of an individual to resist the impulse to set fire, which is distinctly different from the organized plan of an arsonist or terrorist.1
While Pyromania is a rare condition among adults, persistent fire setting during adolescence is an increasing social and economic problem which poses danger to the health and safety of other people, as well as to the protection of properties. In the United States, for example, fire setting among children and adolescents has led to the death of more people than any other accidents occurring in the house.
Among young children, one of the biggest diagnoses is conduct disorder, rather than Pyromania. In children and adolescents, there are two categories of fire setters—namely pathological and non-pathological. With the former, their desire to set things on fire is derived from their curiosity to experiment. The pathological fire setters are further subdivided into five categories:
Fire Setting as a Call for Help
In this category of Pyromania, the individual sets fires as a means of getting the attention of other people concerning their inner conditions, such as depression and interpersonal problems.
Delinquent Fire Setters
Children falling in this category of Pyromania range from 11 to 15 years old. They show aggressive tendencies, and may resort to vandalism. Their aim for setting fires is geared towards damaging property instead of injuring people.
Severely Disturbed Fire Setters
Children falling under this category of Pyromania have been diagnosed as psychotic or paranoid and these tendencies are reinforced by their impulse to set fires.
Cognitively Impaired Fire Setters
The impulses of children who belong to this category of pathological Pyromania have been damaged by neurological or medical illnesses like fetal alcohol syndrome.
Sociocultural Fire Setters
Children who fall under this category of Pyromania are influenced by antisocial adults in their neighborhood. They resort to fire setting in order to get the approval of these adults.
Could You Have Pyromania?