According to Cambridge Dictionary, pyromania is a mental illness in which a person feels an uncontrollable urge to start fires. It is a very rare disorder that is found mostly in the male population. It is more common in children then in adults. Pyromania is classified as an impulse control disorder.
Not everyone who repeatedly starts fires is considered pyromaniac. There are certain criteria that a person has to meet in order to get the diagnosis of pyromania. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists 6 criteria that must be met before giving a person a diagnosis of pyromania. The criteria are:
1. The person must have deliberately set fires on more than one occasion.
2. The person must feel tension or arousal before starting the fires.
3. The person must be fascinated with, interested in, or attracted to fire and its situational contexts.
4. The person is pleasured, gratified, or relieved when setting the fires. The person may also feel these sensations during the aftermath of the fire.
5. The person did not start the fire to gain money, make society mad, or to cover up criminal activity. The person’s must not have been suffering from hallucinations, delusions or impaired judgment.
6. All other possible diagnosis must be ruled out first.
Symptoms of Pyromania
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.
Are Pyromania and Arson the Same?
Pyromania and arson are two separate entities. When a pyromaniac sets a fire it is not done for monetary gain, revenge or to cover up any form of criminal activity. The act is not committed because the person wants to hurt others. To the pyromaniac setting fires is pleasurable.
When an arsonist starts a fire there is usually something gained from the act other than pleasure. The fire may e set to collect insurance money, or to get revenge on someone else. The arsonist sets fire because he has something to gain. The majority of arsonists do not fit the criteria for a pyromania diagnosis.
Causes of Pyromania
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.
1. Antisocial behavior.
2. The individual is looking for a good time and/or trying to get attention from others.
3. Lack of social skills.
4. The individual does not know the dangers associated with setting fires.
1. Lack of parental supervision.
2. Being around adults who do not know how to use fire properly.
3. Abused by parent or other close adult.
4. Peer pressure.
5. Lack of coping skills.
Some studies have shown that there may be possible links between pyromania and reactive hypoglycemia. There may also be abnormal amounts of neurotransmitters in the pyromaniac’s brain.
Treatment of Pyromania
Treatment for pyromania has a higher success rate if it is started when the individual is still a child. Behavior modification is a common method of treatment. Individual and family therapy, with a trusted therapist, can do wonders for the individual and the family. The individual should also be taught proper coping and social skills. Anger management classes are also recommended.
Pyromania is a very rare disorder. It is seen mostly in males. It differs from arson in many ways. The exact cause of pyromania is unknown, but there are individual, environmental and biological factors that got along with the disorder. Treatment for pyromania is more effective if started during childhood.
Discovery Health- How Pyromania Works
New World Encyclopedia- Pyromania
Cambridge Dictionaries Online- Pyromania
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.