Pyromania is an impulse control disorder


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Pyromania is one of several disorders classified as an Impulse Control Disorder not elsewhere classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5).

The most common fires set are those in rubbish bins or waste paper baskets, followed by rubbish fires and arson involving trees and bushes. Cars and houses are less commonly set on fire, and arson involving buildings other than dwellings is very rare.

The DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for pyromania

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The DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for pyromania are as follows:

A. Recurrent fire setting resulting in the direct destruction of property or deliberate harm to animals or people has been carried out at least twice within one year.

B. The individual feels a sense of tension or affective arousal immediately before the fire setting, and gratification during and/or after the act.

C. The fire-setting is not committed to expressing anger or vengeance toward another person (i.e., it has no purpose other than pleasure).

D. There is evidence of tension or affective arousal between the fire-setting episodes.

E. The fire-setting behavior is not accounted for by another mental disorder such as Schizophrenia, a manic episode of Bipolar Disorder, a depressive episode of Major Depression or Anxiety Disorder, Trauma and Stressor-related Disorders including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or Acute Stress Disorder, Dissociative Disorders including Depersonalization/ Derealization Disorder, a Psychotic Disorder such as Schizophrenia or Delusional Disorder.

F. When another disorder is present, the fire-setting behavior has been sufficiently severe to warrant independent clinical attention.

Most cases of pyromania are male and usually start at around 12 years of age. The condition appears to be more common in adolescents and young adults, but there are also some cases involving children under 10 years old.

General intensity for pyromania

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Pyromania is thought to be less common than other impulse-control disorders, which include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), trichotillomania (painting or pulling out hair), pathological gambling, kleptomania (stealing), and intermittent explosive disorder.

Symptoms for pyromania

Symptoms include feeling tension before the fire setting, pleasure during it, gratification at seeing flames burning. Pyromania is a diagnosed condition only if the person does not intend to start a fire but feels guilty about doing so afterward.

Treatment for pyromania

Treatment for pyromania includes behavioral therapy which teaches the person to control their behavior to avoid doing damage. Antipsychotic medications are sometimes used, but they do not affect the condition itself.

There is also a strong element of self-destruction involved with pyromania that may continue throughout adulthood. For example, one individual reported that he started fires because it made him feel powerful.

Study of five adolescents with pyromania

Another study of five adolescents with pyromania found that four had suffered physical abuse and three had been neglected as children. It was said to be unclear whether this self-destructive behavior developed before the fire setting or afterward; but for some, the tension felt before the fire-setting was relieved by it.

Criteria for substance abuse or dependence

Other researchers have reported that 30% of people with pyromania also meet the criteria for substance abuse or dependence. Many individuals diagnosed with this condition also show antisocial personality traits, which are associated with a history of temper outbursts and multiple arrests for arson.

Pyromania is a condition that often results in prosecution for crimes of fire-setting. A study of twenty men with this disorder found that all had extensive histories of psychiatric problems, including substance abuse, personality disorders,fire-setting, and depression. They were also frequently accused of arson at work or during an interpersonal conflict.

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