Pyromania is a pathological disorder characterized by an intense fascination of fire and repetitive fire setting. Individuals who have this condition may feel satisfied and relieved of tension and anxiety after intentionally setting fires.
Pyromania is associated with a range of co-occurring disorders. The most prevalent co-occurring substance disorders are alcohol use disorder (71.7%) and marijuana use disorder (43.17%).
When pyromania and substance abuse present together, they require an integrated treatment approach of combined therapies to treat the underlying causes and symptoms of both disorders.
Dual diagnosis treatment is highly effective at treating co-occurring disorders simultaneously, rather than treating one disorder alone.
Find out more about dual diagnosis impulse control disorders and addiction
What Is Pyromania?
Pyromania is a rare, pathological disorder that is classified as an impulse control disorder by the DSM. It is characterized by repetitive and intentional fire-setting urges that are unrelated to reward.
Who Is Affected By Pyromania?
This is a common disorder among people with learning disabilities and who lack social skills.
Pyromania is commonly associated with other mood disorders and substance use disorders. Experts suggest there may be a genetic link between these conditions.
Pyromania usually develops in childhood and develops into adulthood. The disorder is progressive and does not stop on its own.
Due to high risks of injury, death, property damage, and incarceration, it is vital treatment is sought immediately after diagnosis.
In order for pyromania to be diagnosed by a qualified health professional, the following diagnostic criteria must be present:
- attraction to fire
- deliberate and repetitive fire setting
- excitement and tension before firesetting, followed by relief and pleasure after fire setting
- motivations for firesetting are not correlated with:
- financial gain
- personal benefit
- ideological motivations
- criminal activity
- an expression of revenge or anger
- the result of impaired judgment, hallucinations, or delusions
- motivations for firesetting are not strongly related to a manic episode or other disorder
Pyromania can occur in adolescents and adults. The disorder is more common among males than females.
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Additional signs of pyromania include:
- excessive and unnecessary amount of fire paraphernalia
- fire damage in personal living space, such as burns in fabric and rugs
- burnt materials such as paper and other materials found in trash bins or near sinks or stoves
- obsession with fire, firefighting
- frequent visits to fire sites, departments, or setting off false fire alarms
A family history of antisocial personality disorder may be associated with this condition. The disorder is frequently associated with a range of antisocial behaviors.
Due to these associated behaviors, an individual with this disorder may avoid seeking treatment until it is required by law enforcement or legal mandate.
How Common Is Co-Occurring Pyromania And Addiction?
Pyromania is a relatively rare disorder and research in regards to the condition is infrequently conducted. Available research generally involves a small number of patients.
What is known about the disorder is that it typically develops in adolescence in both genders, however, it occurs more frequently in males.
Pyromania is associated with substance abuse and other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Individuals with the condition may abuse drugs due to poor impulse control, disruption of the brain’s pleasure and reward centers, or to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
Why Do People With Pyromania Abuse Drugs And Alcohol?
This condition may correlate with poor social skills, disrupted personal relationships, and other reckless or harmful behaviors.
Further, when the disorder co-occurs with mental illness, such as anxiety and depression, people with the condition may turn to drugs and alcohol to reduce symptoms of their disorder.
Unfortunately, drug and alcohol use often exacerbates symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other compulsive behaviors, leading to increased risks of damage and danger to self and others.
A person may abuse substances to:
- reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
- self-medicate or numb negative emotions
- alleviate boredom
- alleviate tension
Long-term, habitual use of drugs and alcohol may quickly lead to the development of addiction.
When pyromania and substance abuse occur together, it increases the likelihood of adverse side effects and poor outcomes.
Diagnosing Co-Occurring Pyromania And Addiction
Pyromania requires careful diagnosis outside of substance abuse treatment. However, when these disorders occur together, dual diagnosis treatment offers higher rates of recovery.
Because pyromania is associated with impulse control disorders, many therapies may overlap with the treatment of substance abuse and addiction.
A diagnosis of pyromania and addiction involves diagnostic criteria that must be met in order for the individual to be confirmed as having these conditions.
If a person is seeking treatment for addiction and has not been diagnosed with pyromania, it may be necessary to complete detoxification and withdrawal before seeking a diagnosis.
Diagnosing pyromania and addiction is based on:
- an individual’s family medical history
- medical and mental health evaluation
- relevant behavioral and psychological factors
Treatment For Co-Occurring Pyromania And Addiction
Specialized treatment for pyromania and substance abuse is required and may involve several therapies, medications, and counseling in a personal or group setting.
An integrated treatment approach usually achieves better recovery rates and higher chances for recovery. Several medications and therapies may overlap when treating these disorders simultaneously.
An accurate diagnosis and an integrated treatment approach are crucial for recovery.
Dual diagnosis treatment may include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and naltrexone
- group and personal counseling
- social skills training
- fire safety education
Treatment for these disorders is often tailored to the needs of the patient and involves a combination of medication and therapies.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Pyromania And Substance Use Disorder
It may be challenging for a person to locate treatment for complex disorders, such as impulse control disorders and substance abuse.
Finding specialized treatment involving co-occurring disorders is necessary to achieve full recovery.
If you or a loved one has an impulse control disorder, such as pyromania, and substance abuse, help is available.
Dual diagnosis treatment is available at:
- several, local inpatient and outpatient treatment centers
- individual healthcare providers
- residential rehabilitation centers
If you’d like to learn more about dual diagnosis treatment programs, or if you or someone you know has one of these disorders, please call our helpline today.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- American Journal of Psychiatry — Fire Setting and the Impulse-Control Disorder of Pyromania
- National Institute of Biotechnology Information — Phenomenology and treatment of behavioural addictions
- National Institute of Biotechnology Information — Clinical characteristics and psychiatric comorbidity of pyromania
- Oxford Handbooks — The Oxford Handbook of Impulse Control Disorders
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report