If a person suspects that he / she or a loved one is suffering from pyromania, it is important to remember that the condition is treatable and seek the help of a professional as soon as possible.


What is pyromania?

Pyromania is an inability to suppress the need to set fire to objects. The most common symptoms of pyromania are involuntary thoughts of fire and arson, an inability to suppress these thoughts and the feeling of "relief" after the act has been committed. Feelings of stress, guilt and remorse are also common.

The highest rates of pyromania occur among teenage boys and young adults. It usually develops during childhood. People diagnosed with pyromania usually also struggle with other conditions, such as low mood. Because the symptoms match those of many other disorders, they can be treated effectively. A combination of medication and psychotherapy is ideal in the treatment of pyromania. So getting help from a GP, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist is a good start.

Pyromania is classified as an impulse control disorder, but the persons often take time to prepare. They also tend to leave clues almost as if they want someone to identify them.



The following symptoms are indicative, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – 5), which is widely accepted as the most authoritative source worldwide. Please note Please note that an official diagnosis may only be made by a qualified person.

To be diagnosable, the following symptoms must occur:

  1. Deliberate arson, on several occasions.
  2. Tension before the action.
  3. Interest in and fascination with fire.
  4. Enlightenment, “fulfillment” or relaxation just after the action is completed.
  5. The action should not be specific because of revenge or action against someone specific.
  6. There is no other explanation for the behavior (eg, a manic episode or another psychological disorder).



  1. Why is treatment necessary for pyromania?
    Without the right treatment, the symptoms of pyromania can get out of control and cause the individual concerned to run into great trouble with society and / or justice. Pyromania may be related to other diseases in this regard, e.g. diabetes, be compared. Both require ongoing pharmacological treatment (medication) and monitoring by a professional, and the results are generally much better if the person is regularly receiving psychotherapy from a psychologist. In order to prevent people or animals from being hurt or the person's behavior causing him or her to collapse with justice, professional treatment is of utmost importance to anyone diagnosed with pyromania.
  2. Who can diagnose me or a loved one?
    We recommend that you be tested and diagnosed only by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. They are trained to distinguish between different psychological disorders, which may have similar symptoms.
  3. What role does a psychologist play in the treatment of pyromania?
    A psychologist can diagnose pyromania and treat psychotherapeutically. This means that he or she can help you understand and live with your diagnosis, as well as apply a strategy that can lead to behavioral change. A psychologist in South Africa may not prescribe medication and usually works with a psychiatrist in a team.
  4. How successful is the use of medication?
    The right medication is usually successful and can totally control pyromania in some cases.
  5. What is the difference between a GP, clinical psychologist and psychiatrist?
    1. Family doctor: A GP has been studying medically for seven years. Because they do not specialize in psychiatry (such as a psychiatrist), they have only limited exposure to the training necessary to diagnose and treat people with psychological / psychiatric conditions. Your family doctor may prescribe medication, but is also ethically required to refer a patient to a specialist if needed.
    2. Clinical psychologist: A clinical psychologist is studying human behavior and psychotherapy, and must have at least a master's degree (six years +) in South Africa, with an internship and research that must be completed in order to register. It is the person who will help you understand and live with your psychological diagnosis (such as post-traumatic stress disorder).
    3. Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist also studied medically for seven years, but specializes in psychiatry, namely the chemical treatment of disorders related to human behavior. So a psychiatrist is the doctor who can diagnose you and prescribe the right medication for your psychological condition. The reference to "psychological states" or "psychiatric states" is exactly the same.
  6. Is there a specific type of psychologist I need to see?
    In South Africa, there are currently five different categories or specialist areas within which all psychologists must register:
    1. Clinical psychologist
    2. Counseling Psychology
    3. Educational Psychology
    4. Industrial Psychology
    5. Research Psychology

    The different categories indicate the specialist areas within which psychologists must adhere to strict regulations and comply with ethical and legal requirements. Only one clinical psychologist can make a clinical diagnosis according to the HPCSA.



If a loved one or friend is diagnosed with pyromania, your support and motivation can play a very important role in accepting and managing their diagnosis. Here are guidelines on how to assist an individual:

  1. Be patient. People who are under the onslaught of pyromania do not always have the ability to say how they feel or what they are experiencing. Give them a chance to get used to the diagnosis first, and gradually work out an effective plan to manage their lives from now on.
  2. Be informed about pyromania. The more you and your loved one, family member or colleague know about the disease, the more you can work together on a plan to support the person and manage the disease.
  3. Ask what your loved one expects of you. One can easily think you know what is best for another person, but the easiest is to ask how he or she wants you to act.
  4. Listen to him or her, and don't give constant advice or try to reason with logic. It is important that the person takes responsibility for the illness and the effect it will have on his / her life. When someone makes choices on behalf of someone else, it may cause people to become dependent on you and then not want to fight the disease themselves. It is not your illness, but your loved one's. Listening is a wonderful way to support your loved one.
  5. Get to know the signs and symptoms so you can act early. Everyone's symptoms of pyromania do not manifest in the same way, so it is very important to understand how the person manifests in your life's symptoms. For example, when your loved one suddenly experiences significantly more anxiety than other times, you can start taking measures as long as possible.
  6. Participate in physical activities with the individual. It is not a cliché that regular exercise helps people with psychological diagnoses. Exercise relieves tension and anxiety, and aids in the production of low-mood transmitters. So regular exercise is actually a successful antidepressant.
  7. Encourage a healthy eating and sleeping pattern. An established routine not only helps the person manage their illness, but also helps to see signs / symptoms early.
  8. Take a good look at yourself! Remember, a person with diagnosed pyromania can also negatively impact you by involving you in their disorder. Living with a person diagnosed with anxiety can feel frustrating, exhausting and sometimes chaotic. Make time for yourself too.


If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, we suggest the following options:
  1. call your GP (if available);
  2. go to your nearest hospital emergency room;
  3. call one of the following emergency numbers: SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group) 24-hour helpline: 0800 456 789 or suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567; or
  4. contact Wie is ek?