Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Pyromania is an impulse control disorder in which individuals repeatedly fail to resist impulses to deliberately start fires, in order to relieve tension, for gratification or relief. Pyromania and pyromaniacs are distinct from arson, the pursuit of personal, monetary or political gain. It is multiple deliberate and purposeful fire setting rather than accidental. Pyromaniacs start fires to induce euphoria, and often fixate on institutions of fire control like fire stations and firefighters. Pyromania is a type of impulse control disorder, along with kleptomania, compulsive gambling, trichotillomania and others.

Because pyromania is such a rare disorder, we do not know much about its biological causes. Pyromania is generally classified as an impulse control disorder (ICD), along with pathological gambling, kleptomania and addictions. We do not know what sparks most ICDs, but they do not go away on their own accord -- patients need medical and psychiatric treatment.

The exact cause of pyromania is unknown. There are individual and environmental factors that are common in some pyromania cases. There are also some biological studies that have been done; however, there have not been enough studies done to find any concrete evidence for the cause of this disorder.

Individual factors:

    Antisocial behavior.

  • The individual is looking for a good time and/or trying to get attention from others.

  • Lack of social skills.

  • The individual does not know the dangers associated with setting fires.

Environmental factors:

    Lack of parental supervision.

  • Being around adults who do not know how to use fire properly.

  • Abused by parent or other close adult.

  • Peer pressure.

  • Lack of coping skills.


Although, the above listed criteria are also considered symptoms of pyromania, the person may also show other symptoms before starting the fire. Symptoms include; depressed mood, being lonely, poor coping skills and rage. Setting fires can become an outlet for these feelings.


In the media, pyromaniacs are often portrayed as angry people who have been rejected by society who get their comeuppance by setting fire to places they associate with their negative emotions. This is an inaccurate portrayal; while many arsonists are, in fact, pyromaniacs, pyromania is not the cause behind most arson. Though pyromaniacs commit premeditated arson, they do not do it with the intention of hurting people, gaining revenge, unleashing feelings of frustration or anger, or simply out of boredom. Rather, these types of people will commit an act of pyromania because they cannot control themselves. Pyromaniacs feel pleasure, relief, and/or gratification upon seeing the aftermath of a fire or upon seeing a fire burn; they commit arson for the sake of these feelings only. A person can be diagnosed with pyromania only if they have set fire to something more than once, if they experience the aforementioned feelings of pleasure and/or relief upon seeing a fire burn, and if their arson is not caused by any other disorder, such as antisocial personality disorder.


The appropriate treatment for pyromania varies with the age of the patient and the seriousness of the condition. For children and adolescents treatment usually is cognitive behavioral therapy sessions in which the patient's situation is diagnosed to find out what may have caused this impulsive behavior. Once the situation is diagnosed, repeated therapy sessions usually help continue to a recovery. Other important steps must be taken as well with the interventions and the cause of the impulse behavior. Some other treatments measures include, parenting training, over-correction/satiation/negative practice with corrective consequences, behavior contracting/token reinforcement, special problem-solving skills training, relaxation training, covert sensitization, fire safety and prevention education, individual and family therapy, and medication. The prognosis for recovery in adolescents and children who suffer from pyromania depends on the environmental or individual factors in play, but is generally positive. Pyromania is generally harder to treat in adults, often due to lack of cooperation by the patient. Treatment usually consists of more medication to prevent stress or emotional outbursts in addition to long-term psychotherapy. In adults, however, the recovery rate is generally poor and if an adult does recover it usually takes a longer period of time.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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