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Pyromania: A Disorder That Makes People Literally Want to Watch The World Burn

Pyromania, which is defined by the American Addiction Centers as “an attraction or obsession with fire and fire-setting paraphernalia, along with a compulsive need to set fires, and relief and pleasure after doing so”, is a serious mental health illness that should not be taken lightly. It comes from the Greek words “pyr” meaning “fire” and “mania” which is translated as “madness”.

Pyromaniacs differ from arsonists and terrorists in that they set fires on an impulse, while the latter uses systematic plans to set fires. It is a mental disorder known to affect only one percent of the American population.

What Are Its Causes?

Dr. Amy Morin, a psychotherapist from Northeastern University, states that the specific cause of Pyromania is not identified. However, these are the many plausible reasons and risk factors that induce a person to become a pyromaniac:

Males are said to be more at risk of becoming pyromaniacs than women are. However, both can suffer from this condition at any age, but they may start exhibiting obsessive fire-setting behavior as early as three years old.

If an individual is struggling with other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, substance abuse, gambling disorder, and antisocial personality disorder, this heightens their probability of having Pyromania. They are also more likely to be affected by this disorder if they have poor social skills or have learning disabilities.

People who have experienced abuse may also possibly turn into pyromaniacs. They may have been physically or sexually abused in the past or neglected or abandoned by their parents during childhood. Individuals who have criminal records may also suffer from this disorder. Experts found that 18% of those who are pyromaniacs were sexual offenders and 19% of them have a history of vandalism.

In general, Pyromania is prompted by individual and environmental factors. Environmental factors may include experiencing peer pressure, seeing other adults handling fires in an improper or careless manner and going through stressful events.

What Are Its Signs and Symptoms?

Psychology Today says that the symptoms that a person is affected by Pyromania are:  deliberately setting multiple fires, being thrilled or nervous before starting a fire, being fascinated by fire, getting relieved or feeling pleasure after they have set a fire. They may also be extremely interested in fire and firefighting. Pyromaniacs regularly visit fire stations. They are also fond of watching and getting involved in situations linked to fire. Sometimes, they may even use false fire alarms.

Signs that show that someone is a pyromaniac include possessing objects related to burning or burnt materials. They may have burnt papers, rags that have holes from being burnt, lighters, matches, and have inflammable objects placed beside their stove or trash cans.

Five Subcategories of Adolescent Pyromaniacs

Mindisorders.com says that there are five kinds of adolescent pyromaniacs or fire-setters. These classifications are:

Fire-setters who want to call attention

Adolescent pyromaniacs of this kind set fires to draw attention to the psychological problems they are struggling with. They may be suffering from family or mental issues like witnessing the divorce of their parents, having social problems, depression or experiencing physical or sexual abuse.

Delinquent firesetters

A majority of the firesetters of this sort are around 11 to 15 years old. These are adolescents who express their aggression through setting a fire. They may also be involved in hate crimes and vandalism. The fire that they start usually destroys property rather than harms other people.

Severely disturbed firesetters

These are pyromaniac teens who struggle with psychosis and paranoia. They seem to be encouraged to keep setting fires because of the sensory elements of a fire. In some cases, they may set fires as part of a suicide attempt.

Cognitively-impaired firesetters

Fire-setting teens under this category are affected by neurological or other medical conditions that cause them to have a malfunctioning impulse control. An example of such a condition is fetal alcohol syndrome.

Sociocultural firesetters

These are the type of fire-setting teenagers who set fires in order to gain the favor the antisocial adults who have influenced them.

Treatment

The only clinically-proven treatment option for Pyromania is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Verywell Mind states. Pyromaniacs who are subject to CBT will be taught with how to recognize their tense feelings which cause them to set fires as well as looking for a better alternative to expressing that tension.

People who are suffering from Pyromania should immediately be referred to a mental health professional to prevent them from being sent to jail, causing destruction to other people’s property, getting injuries or dying.

Another suggested treatment method is Family Therapy. When the family members go to counseling sessions together with the patient, they will be educated about Pyromania and how to keep themselves protected.

There are currently no officially prescribed medicines, but some medicines that are proposed by experts are atypical psychotics, lithium, SSRIs, anti-androgens, and antiepileptic medications.

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