Pyromania is characterized by deliberately and repetitively setting fires — and doing so compulsively. Pyromaniacs feel unable to stop the behavior and setting fires to help to release inner tension or anxiety and gives the person a rush of pleasure or satisfaction.
The primary feature of pyromania is the appearance of multiple episodes of deliberate and purposeful fire setting.
In addition, individuals with pyromania experience pressure and affective arousal before setting a fire. Other symptoms may include:
A fascination with fire, which may include interest, curiosity, and attraction to fire and fire setting paraphernalia
Watching fires in the neighborhood, setting off false alarms, or gaining pleasure from institutions, equipment, and personnel with fire
Spending time at a local fire department, setting fires to be affiliated with the fire department, or becoming a firefighter
Experiencing pleasure, gratification, or relief when starting a fire, witnessing the effects, and participating in the aftermath
People with pyromania do not set fires for monetary gain, but they also aren’t trying to conceal criminal activity, gain vengeance, or improve their living situation. The symptoms also cannot be in response to delusions or hallucinations.
The fire setting also cannot stem from impaired judgment, such as an intellectual disability. The diagnosis also won’t be performed if the behavior is better explained by another mental illness.
There isn't a single known cause of pyromania. Research suggests there might be a genetic link and it may be similar to a behavioral addiction. It’s not known exactly how many people have pyromania, however, researchers estimate it only affects a very small portion of the population, however.
People who have certain other mental illnesses may be at a higher risk than the general population, such as gambling disorder, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorder, etc.
The condition appears in both males and females—though it’s significantly more common in males. It’s more common in people who have learning disabilities or lack social skills, and there are environmental factors in play, too.
Immediate treatment of presumed pyromania is key to evade the risk of injury, property damage, jail time, or even death. The sole method of treatment for pyromania is CBT, which teaches a person to recognize the feelings of tension that can lead to setting fires and finding a safer way to release that tension.
At this point, there haven’t been any controlled trials of medication for pyromania, though proposed medical treatments include the use of SSRIs, antiepileptic medications, atypical antipsychotics, lithium, and anti-androgens. Therefore, cognitive behavioral therapy is considered the only viable treatment option at this time.