What Is Pyromania And What Do You Need To Know About It?

Updated October 23, 2018

Reviewer Kay Adkins, LPC

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This is one disorder that you've likely heard of and not in a good way. That's because those who suffer from pyromania tend to get in a whole lot of trouble, and they do it in ways that can be dangerous not only to them but to others. What is pyromania? For those who haven't' heard of it, pyromania is a compulsive desire to set fires, and while the individual does not have any specific interest in hurting property, possessions or other people, it's a very real possibility.

What is Pyromania?

Let's start from the top with what pyromania is and what it isn't. An arsonist and a pyromaniac are not the same, by definition. An arsonist is someone who wants to set fires. They actively seek out situations and places where they can set fires and do so repeatedly. A pyromaniac does not want to set fires, but they feel a compulsive need to set fires constantly. The main difference between the two is the actual desire to set fires, not the action itself.

It's important to note, however, that a pyromaniac and an arsonist do have one very important thing in common, they do not intend to harm other people physically. While fires can and will cause loss and harm to others because of the property that's lost, these individuals take no pleasure in having victims injured or killed in the fires that they set. Of course, for those who are injured or suffer a loss as a result of the fire, the intent of the person who set it is of very little consolation, which is why the crime is still punished the same way.

From a psychological standpoint, pyromania is a very rare disorder that causes individuals to have an irresistible impulse to set fires. These individuals are fascinated by fire in all its forms, and that means it's not just setting fires that they are intrigued by. They're captivated by all fire-related activities and may even engage in other activities or interests related to fire, like reading about it, watching it, or even working in a profession that's related to it. These individuals like anything and everything they can find about fire and experience a great release of tension and stress each time they set one.

Symptoms of Pyromania

Though it's more common in males than in females, it's extremely possible that either gender could suffer from the disorder. It's also possible for adolescents or adults to experience the initial onset and, unlike with many other disorders, those with learning disabilities and those who have difficulty with social skills are at a slightly higher risk of developing this disorder. Individuals may engage in these behaviors because of the disorder itself or for other reasons, such as winning approval of others, engaging in a variety of delinquent behaviors or simply those crying out for help, which is why it is important to understand the meaning behind the actions.

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Burning things is one of the hallmarks of this disorder, but it doesn't have to be large things for the individual to be suffering from this disorder. For example, someone with pyromania may constantly burn holes in fabrics such as clothing or rugs. They may burn paper or other materials in trash cans or even over the stove. They may even have burns on themselves as a result of experiments or fires set.

These individuals may collect or hoard matches and lighters and play with them constantly, light matches, turn on lighters just to watch the flames. They may not even set anything on fire at first or every time that they light that match, but they will eventually start to build up to the actual actions, starting with smaller fires and possibly setting fires to something larger or more dangerous.

The individual may be attracted to other fires, even those that they do not set themselves. They may be fascinated with watching either in person or on TV or hearing about fires that are taking place in different parts of their hometown or even other parts of the state or country. They tend to talk about fires as well and may seek out friends who are like-minded or who work in fire-related jobs.

Because they are completely obsessed with everything related to fires as well, these individuals may be attracted to fire departments and those who work directly in line with fire. They may visit fire departments or volunteer as a firefighter to get even more up close and personal with fires that occur in the area. This may even involve fires that they have set themselves.

What Causes Pyromania?

There are some theories, though there are no definite answers at this point, about what causes pyromania. Because the intent behind the fire is only to relieve stress or built up tension and not to commit a crime or get any material gain or even revenge, there are other factors behind it. Some of the most known theories related to those suffering with pyromania include: impulse control disorders, substance abuse, other psychiatric or mental disorders or mood disorders.

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Seeking Out Treatment

It's extremely important to get treatment for pyromania as soon as possible because of the high probability of danger to the individual suffering it and those around them. Because every fire has the potential to cause a great deal of loss to property and people, it's essential that who believes they are suffering from this disorder to reach out right away and to encourage others to get help. Without help, curbing the compulsions is extremely difficult or even impossible, and yet it's extremely important that it be done, which is why getting help is an important step.

Willing it to stop or any kind of punishment handed down by parents, friends, or even the law prevents being able to receive outside therapeutic help. Seeking a professional psychiatrist or therapist is the best way to start working towards a resolution and towards overcoming this disorder, but finding a therapist isn't' always as easy as one might think. It can be difficult to find someone to feel comfortable with and that can be easily meet up within in a particular area, which is why BetterHelp is such a great option for you.

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BetterHelp is an online service that can connects individuals with psychiatrists and therapists from all around the country. All that must be done is logging on from a computer or mobile device. Subscribers can find a therapist that they feel comfortable with, and it doesn't matter where their office might physically be located because the appointment can be held in an already safe environment - home, office, or another private location. Appointments with scheduled online; and then all that's needed is an internet-enabled device.

The key is learning to identify and redirect the urge to start a fire into something more productive or more efficient. Because fire starting is an impulse from some other influence on the individual's life, learning what stressors cause the impulse can be a great first step. Figuring out new ways to relieve the tension or cut down on stress can be a great benefit in the process of getting therapy and other forms of help. Problem-solving skills will be instrumental in helping to keep the impulses to a minimum and redirecting them effectively when they do occur.

Other types of therapy can be great with this type of disorder as well, such as family therapy or interaction with those who have suffered great injuries because of a fire. This can help the individual to understand more about the consequences of the fires that they set and to understand why they need to follow through on treatment. Teaching them about the safety aspects they should be following in regards to fire setting is also important and can help them as they continue with their treatment. The more they can understand about fires the better it's going to help them in the long run.

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No matter what you may be going through in regard to pyromania for yourself or someone you know, seeking help is instrumental in the recovery process. Without it, it's nearly impossible to overcome the impulses yourself, and no matter what your intent may be, you could easily end up hurting yourself or someone else. Injury, loss of property, death, and incarceration are all very real possibilities if you are engaging in fire setting, and that's why it's important to talk to someone and get professional help to set you on the right path right from the start. Don't let this go for any longer.


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