Pyromania: Phenomenology and Epidemiology

Michel Lejoyeux and Candice Germain

in The Oxford Handbook of Impulse Control Disorders

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195389715
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Pyromania: Phenomenology and Epidemiology

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Pyromania corresponds to fire setting not done for criminal reasons, for profit or sabotage, for monetary gain, as an expression of sociopolitical ideology (an act of terrorism or protest) or anger, or for revenge. Pyromania, in the sense of arson without a separate motive, is a rare phenomenon.

In the DSM-IV-TR, pyromania is classified as an impulse control disorder (ICD) not elsewhere classified. It is characterized by a failure to resist impulsive, repetitive, deliberate fire-setting urges that are unrelated to external reward.

The only study of the prevalence of fire setting derived from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found a lifetime prevalence of 1% for fire setting in the U.S. population. The prevalence of pyromania in adult psychiatric inpatients was 3.4% (n = 7), and the lifetime prevalence was 5.9%.

Fire setting is significantly associated with a wide range of antisocial behaviors. Multivariate logistic regression analyses identified strong associations between lifetime alcohol and marijuana use disorders, conduct disorder, antisocial and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders, and a family history of antisocial behavior. Intentional illicit fire-setting behavior is associated with a broad array of antisocial behaviors and psychiatric comorbidities. The most prevalent psychiatric disorders among persons with a history of fire setting are any lifetime alcohol use disorder (71.7%), antisocial personality disorder (51.46%), marijuana use disorder (43.17%), and nicotine dependence (42.95%). A family history of antisocial behavior is also frequent (60%).

Keywords: pyromania; addiction; impulsivity; impulse control disorders; behavioral addiction; sensation seeking; alcohol use disorders

Article.  9945 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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