Arsonphobia (fear of fire): causes, symptoms and treatment

Throughout the history of mankind, fire has played the role of both an ally and an enemy of man. Thanks to him, a large number of advancements and inventions were possible that led to an improvement in the development of mankind.

However, we cannot ignore the danger this poses. Because it is poorly controlled, it can be fatal, hence the fear it arouses in people. however, when this fear becomes disproportionate, we may be faced with a case of arson.

Related article: “The 15 Rarest Phobias on the Market”

What is a pyrotechnic fire?

In the long list of specific phobias that exist, Arson is an anxiety disorder in which the person experiences a pathological fear of fire or fire.. This phobia can also be known as pyrophobia.

As with other specific anxiety disorders, when people with fire are confronted or think they have to deal with the feared stimulus, a series of reactions, both physical and psychological, are triggered, typical of states of stress and stress. very high anxiety.

It is understandable that a person can experience a certain degree of fear in the presence of a fire and even more so in the face of a fire, this is considered a normal and adaptive fear, which appears as a survival response. however, if this response is generalized to any situation and is disproportionate, it can be considered a specific phobia, especially fire.

How to differentiate it from a regulatory fear?

There are a number of specific characteristics that help differentiate between a usual reaction or response to danger and a pathological phobia or fear. To do this, we must take into account the consequences or direct effects of this fear on the person’s daily life.

Therefore, in cases where the person suffers from fire, he will experience strong anxiety reactions to the appearance of the phobic or aversive stimulus; in this case, fire. In addition, it is very possible that this fear will cause interference when you lead a normal life, so it is always advisable to consult a professional in psychology.

Finally, a number of requirements and qualities of fear disorders must be taken into account, which serve to define the phobia and to allow its diagnosis. These qualities are as follows.

1. It turns out to be a disproportionate fear

One of the characteristics that differentiates a natural fear from a disproportionate fear is that in arson the feeling of fear felt is completely disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the phobic stimulus.

In that case, the person may overreact to the perception of a burning lamp or even in front of a burning stove.

2. It’s irrational

Subjects with fire and phobia they are absolutely unable to find a reasonable and justified explanation for their fear reactions. So much so that in many cases the person is well aware that the stimulus is not inherently dangerous but is still unable to prevent the anxiety reaction from manifesting itself in front of it.

3. It’s out of control

Finally, the third defining characteristic of a phobic fear is that this fear is absolutely out of control for the person with fire. This means that the person cannot prevent the onset of anxiety and fear reactions, nor control them while experiencing them.


Because fire is another on the list of specific phobias, its symptomatology is very similar to that of other pathological fears of this type. The clinical picture is distinguished by its anxious character and appears whenever the person is faced with or thinks about situations related to a fire or arson.

This clinical picture is classified into physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms and behavioral symptoms; which usually appear automatically and suddenly, and only disappear when the person has successfully escaped or avoided the phobic stimulus.

1. Physical symptoms

The first symptoms that the patient with a fire is aware of are the physical symptoms. The appearance of the phobic stimulus, fire, causes hyperactivity in the nervous system of the person which triggers all kinds of changes and transformations there.

Between symptoms that may appear throughout a phobic episode are found:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Feeling of suffocation or shortness of breath
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Headache

  • Gastrointestinal problems such as upset stomach or diarrhea
  • Increased sweating
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Nausea and / or vomiting

2. Cognitive symptoms

Cognitive symptoms are another group of symptoms that appear in arson. These consist of a series of beliefs and speculations, which can become obsessive, Compared to the fear of fire and fires.

These distorted thoughts and ideas promote the advancement and development of the phobia and stand out because the person has a number of illogical and irrational beliefs about the danger of fire. In addition, these symptoms are often accompanied by catastrophic mental images of this element.

3. Behavioral symptoms

As with other specific anxiety disorders, pyrotechnic fire is also accompanied by behavioral symptoms. these symptoms they are manifested by sidings and exhaust ducts.

Avoidance behaviors refer to all the behaviors or acts that the person performs to avoid encountering the phobic stimulus and thus avoid experiencing negative feelings. An example could be the refusal to cook on a fire or to use a gas appliance which could cause a fire.

On the other hand, escape behaviors are manifested when the subject has not been able to avoid the confrontation with the phobic stimulus, so he will adopt any behavior necessary to escape the situation in which he finds himself and generates high levels of anxiety. .

the causes

Although it is sometimes difficult to determine the specific origin of a phobia, since even the patient himself cannot associate it with any traumatic event, there are a number of factors that can promote or improve the onset and development of this pathological fear.

The existence of a genetic predisposition to the effect of anxiety and stress, coupled with the experience or experience of a highly traumatic situation or a high emotional load in which the fire has arisen from some any way, can trigger, most likely, the onset of arson. .

However, the impact that proxy or imitation learning can have on acquiring a phobia is being investigated.


Although the exact incidence of this phobia is not known to the general public, it is believed to occur more frequently in people whose work involves more or less contact with fire, such as firefighters or forest officers.

In both of these cases and in that of anyone else with this disorder, there are psychological interventions and treatments that can reduce symptoms and even bring the person to rest and overcome their phobic fear.

Psychological treatment is based on three different principles or actions. The first is to perform cognitive restructuring that promotes modification of the distorted thoughts that the person has about fire.

In addition, live exposure or systematic desensitization techniques will be performed, whereby the patient is gradually exposed to the stimulus or phobic situation. This can be done live, in controlled environments and contexts, or through the imagination.

Finally, these techniques are accompanied by training in relaxation techniques, which reduce the levels of arousal in the nervous system and help the person to cope as well as possible with his fears.

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