Volume 42, Issue 6 (November 1997)
Pyromania? What Does It Mean?
Pyromania, despite an explicit definition spelled out in successive editions of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual since 1980, remains an elusive concept. While rarely diagnosed by psychiatrists, pyromania is a label frequently applied by law enforcement and fire fighting/investigation personnel. To test the understanding of pyromania by these professions, the F.B.I. collected data from participants at advanced fire investigation training sessions, specifically asking them to write out their understanding of pyromania. This paper reports on the data obtained from 603 respondents. The results indicate a remarkably poor understanding of pyromania. The authors examined sources of information available to law enforcement and fire fighting/investigation professionals and found the sources to be generally as misinformed as they are. The authors conclude that the professions of psychiatry, law enforcement and fire fighting/investigation must have better source material available to them and must share information better if we are to decrease the threats posed by the ineffectual differentiation of the causes of serial arson.