"Fire became a part of my vocabulary in preschool days … Each summer, I would look forward to the beginning of fire season as well as the fall … I may feel abandoned, lonely, or bored, which triggers feelings of anxiety or emotional arousal before the fire … I want to see the chaos as well as the destruction that I or others have caused … [After the fire is out] I feel sadness and anguish and the desire to set another fire."
While most people have some fascination with fire, the curiosity usually wanes with age and with a firm understanding of the dangers of fire. However, some individuals, like Sarah Wheaton -- who was a college student when she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for compulsive fire-setting -- have a lifelong fascination with fires and an irresistible impulse to set them. This behavior is called pyromania; many myths, misconceptions and controversies surround it, and psychiatrists disagree about whether it's truly a disease.
In this article, we'll examine pyromania. What is it? How common is this behavior? How is it different from arson? What causes it, and how can it be treated?
Learn more about what ails you. Here are some common symptoms.See all »