Mental Health Awareness

What Is It?

Pyromania is an obsession with setting things on fire, while receiving immense pleasure watching. This is considered an impulse control disorder (ICD) because it is nearly impossible to resist the urge without support from others (Freuderich, 2007)


Some statistics on pyromania include:
  • research found that, out of 600 male arsonists, only 3 were "pure arsonists", or pyromaniacs, which led to the conclusion that less than 2% of arsons are actually caused by pyromania (Lindberg, 1973-1993)
  • symptoms usually begin to appear at a young age. The youngest person recorded to have been diagnosed with pyromania was 3 years old
  • this disorder is more commonly found in males than females. 90% of recorded cases were of male pyromaniacs
  • in about 10 years, the amount of fires started by children under 18 years old has increased from 40% to 55%
("Health Research Funding", 2014)


Because of the close resemblance between arsonists and real pyromaniacs, in order to be diagnosed with pyromania the individual must show symptoms such as:
  • having set more than 3 fires in the past
  • having felt stress before setting fires
  • an abnormal attraction to fire
  • having felt pleasure after setting fires
  • no clear motivations other than an impulse
("Health Research Funding", 2014)

Causes & Treatments

Since pyromania is such a rare disorder, the causes are unknown and the treatments for it are also limited. However, a possible cause was discovered by psychiatrist Jon Grant (2006), when he discovered that a patient of his, who was diagnosed with pyromania, had low blood flow in the left inferior frontal portion of his brain. After undergoing behavioural therapy and a daily regimen of an anticonvulsant called topiramate, the problem in the patient's brain had disappeared along with their urge to set fires. From this case, a possible biological cause was found while successfully treating it with the use of behavioural therapy (Freudenrich, 2007).

Impact on Life

Individuals diagnosed with pyromania can cause harm towards themselves as well as those around them. They may:
  • suffer from negative emotions such as anxiety and stress caused from holding back on their impulse to start fires, which may cause issues within their families as well as their social lives
  • damage their own or other's property when deciding on what to set on fire
  • physically harm themselves or others when setting fires
  • end up with a criminal record if they are not legally diagnosed with pyromania and seen as an arsonist instead, which will may result in obstacles when applying for jobs


A support group for this disorder that individuals can go to for help is the Summit Medical Group. However, a critique is that they are only open from 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM from Mondays to Fridays and that appointments must be made in advance for weekends. This prevents patients from seeking the help they need in case of emergencies outside of the hours of operation. Also the majority of the staff speak only English creating a language barrier with patients who are not fluent in English.