Let us start with a simple question:
What exactly does the term Pyromania stand for?
The term Pyromania is derived from the Greek word πῦρ or pyro which means fire. Therefore, as the name suggests, Pyromania is a rare psychiatric condition in which a person is incapable of resisting the urges to deliberately start fires. Generally their motive behind starting fires is not to cause destruction, but simply to alleviate the nagging feelings of anxiety and depression, for instant gratification and sometimes also to induce euphoria. There is a fine line between Pyromania and Arson in which the motivation behind starting fires is personal, political or monetary gain. Just like intermittent explosive disorder and Kleptomania, Pyromania also falls under the impulse control disorders which are characterized by an inability to resist temptation or the compulsion to do something that could be harmful or destructive.
What are the signs and symptoms and criteria for diagnosis of Pyromania?
For the diagnosis of Pyromania, the following signs and symptoms must occur in the patient.
Fires are intentionally started by people for various purposes. These purposes can be criminal, political, monetary or personal which is a different concept from Pyromania. Therefore, it is essential that we know the difference between the two for the correct diagnosis of Pyromania. At some point in our lives, mostly all of us have caused fires. The distinguishing factors that help us separating Pyromania from accidental firesetting is the sense of pleasure derived from the act of starting fires and the repetition of this pattern. If a person causes frequent fires, then it is highly likely they have a case of Pyromania. A pyromaniac person experiences fascination and intense interest around fires. In most cases, these incidents are preceded by a serious build up of stress or anxiety. Emotional buildup and tension is experienced by the person before lighting the fires and it is only after the deed is done that there is an immediate release of the stress. This can become a compulsion when there is a co-occurring release of chemicals from the reward center of the brain, which lures the person towards addiction.
What causes Pyromania?
Pyromania is more common to occur in children and teenagers. There are a number of factors that contribute to the development of Pyromania disorder. These factors can be individual temperament, parental psychopathology, and possible neurochemical predispositions. Causes of Pyromania can be broken down into two main groups- Individual and environmental. Let us take a look at these.
Personal factors play an important role in causing this disorder and making it worse. Most people suffering from Pyromania are found to have personal issues such as social anxiety, history in criminal acts etc. According to the records, 19% of adolescents diagnosed with Pyromania have been charged with Vandalism and non-violent sexual offense. They are also found to have suffered from social issues such as isolation, lack of friends and siblings and subjection to bullying. Truancy, running away from home, and delinquency are some other antisocial traits prominent in Pyromaniac adolescents. Other individual factors can be intense feelings of revenge, abnormal cravings of power and social prestige. Comorbidity of ADHD or adjustment disorders with Pyromania has also been reported in case of young patients.
There are some events that the patient experiences in the environment they live in which pose a great risk in developing Pyromania in these patients. These events can be- not receiving attention from parents and experiences of physical, mental or sexual abuse in the past. Watching other pyromaniac adults or teenagers playing with fires irresponsibly and using it as means of relieving stress can also be potential environmental factors.
How can we prevent Pyromania and what are the possible treatments for curing Pyromania?
The most effective and easy way to prevent Pyromania is- Proper education by the parents about the hazards of fire and importance of fire safety; keeping fire volatile devices out of the reach of children so they may not start accidental fires.
To predict an appropriate treatment for Pyromania, the age of the patient is to be taken into consideration. Treatment of Pyromania in Adults is found to be more difficult as there is a lack of cooperation by the patient and treatment for them is also time consuming as it usually takes longer for adults. The treatment includes a range of medications to prevent stress or emotional outbursts and long-term psychotherapy sessions.
For children and adolescents, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a more effective approach. In this therapy, the therapist starts by identifying the victim's thoughts and behavior patterns to find out what may have caused this impulse control disorder. Along with interventions, some other treatments measures include parenting training, over-correction, satiation, negative practice with corrective consequences, behavior contracting, token reinforcement, special problem-solving skills training, relaxation training, covert sensitization, fire safety and prevention education, individual and family therapy, and medication.