• Question: what in the brain causes pyromania?

    Asked by weronika03 on 5 Jun 2018.
    • Photo: Alex Haragan

      Alex Haragan answered on 5 Jun 2018:


      Pyromania is characterised by an obsessive thought process around fires and setting things on fire, and, often, the physical action of actually setting things on fire.
      By “obsessive” I mean these thoughts and feelings are not controlled by the person suffering pyromania, and these thoughts are often intrusive and frequent – meaning they just appear in their mind and often stop them thinking about other things.
      This is not necessarily the same as people who occasionally like setting things on fire.
      Pyromania can be considered a psychiatric condition, and is associated with others like depression, addictions, personality disorders and so on.
      The exact part of the brain responsible for this is unknown – many studies look at this but the truth is we don’t really understand many common things like depression very well, let alone the more unusual things like pyromania.

    • Photo: Lauren Burns

      Lauren Burns answered on 5 Jun 2018:


      Alex is correct, there is not really a part of the brain that causes pyromania. However, according to the ICD-10 (the big book that we in Europe diagnose all diseases/illnesses; International Classification of Diseases – 10th edition), pyromania is actually a ‘compulsion’ rather than ‘obsession’, it is a easy mistake to make (due to the relatively well-known Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). An ‘obsession’ is an intrusive, repetitive thought, where as ‘compulsion’ is a repetitive action. Pyromania is an impulse-control disorder, it is a compulsion because pyromaniacs do not necessarily think about fire all the time (unlike obsessions), it is about their actions which are driven by their feelings opposed to thoughts.

      It is a really interesting discussion to have, and if you would like to chat to me more about it, just ASK! 🙂

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