Pyrophobia is an intense fear of fire. It can cause anxiety, panic attacks or an avoidance of any situation with the potential for fire. Psychotherapy can help people manage the symptoms of pyrophobia.
Pyrophobia is an extreme fear of fire. People with pyrophobia may be scared when they see fire in any form, such as a bonfire or candle flame. Or they may get severe anxiety thinking or talking about fire. They may anticipate fire in any place or situation, even when there’s no real danger or threat. Some people have a fear of wildfires specifically, which is a condition called agripyrophobia. It’s a form of pyrophobia.
Pyrophobia is the opposite of the more familiar pyromania. Pyromania is an impulse-control disorder that causes a fixation on starting fires and watching them burn.
To a certain extent, it’s normal to fear fire. Fire can be harmful, so your brain tells your body to escape from a burning building or avoid touching a stove flame. But pyrophobia is much more intense than a typical “fight-or-flight” response. A severe fear of fire can affect your ability to function in everyday situations, such as school, work or social settings.
A phobia is an overwhelming fear or worry about certain objects, situations or activities. A specific phobic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. Phobic disorders can cause panic attacks.
There aren’t specific statistics about pyrophobia. But studies show that about 12% of adults and 19% of adolescents in the U.S. experience a specific phobia at some point in their lives. Phobias are about twice as common in women as they are in men.
Pyrophobia doesn’t usually have a specific cause. Your risk may increase if you:
People with pyrophobia may avoid any situation where they believe there’s a potential for fire. This avoidance might include not going into houses with fireplaces or refusing to eat in restaurants that have one. They may obsess about checking public places for fire risks, escape routes, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, sprinklers and other things related to the threat of fire. People with a fear of wildfires may avoid forests or dry, hot climates prone to fires.
At home, someone with pyrophobia may insist on all-electrical appliances instead of ones that run on gas. Or they may have an excessive number of smoke alarms. They may avoid using the stove, oven or toaster. They might even unplug all appliances, lamps and other devices to avoid the risk of an electrical fire.
It’s also possible for people with pyrophobia to have panic attacks if they see fire or talk about fire. Symptoms of a panic attack can include:
Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with a specific phobic disorder, such as pyrophobia, if you:
Like other phobias, pyrophobia can be difficult to diagnose because different phobias can overlap. Someone with pyrophobia may also have claustrophobia (fear of crowded, confined spaces) or agoraphobia (fear of not being able to escape from a place or get help if something goes wrong).
People with specific phobic disorders may also have other mental health disorders, such as
Healthcare providers rule out these other phobias and disorders before confirming a diagnosis of pyrophobia.
Many people can work on overcoming their fear of fire with psychotherapy. Your healthcare provider may recommend:
There’s no way to completely prevent pyrophobia, but you can reduce the negative effects a fear of fire has on your life. Try to:
Psychotherapy is usually helpful for people dealing with specific phobic disorders such as pyrophobia. Sometimes, fears can return after several months or years of not having symptoms, so it’s important to stay open to additional treatment if needed.
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Pyrophobia is an overwhelming fear of fire. People with pyrophobia might feel extreme anxiety if they see fire, or even if they hear about fire. This fear may cause someone to avoid public places or any situation where they think a fire could occur. If you think you may have pyrophobia or another specific phobic disorder, get help from your healthcare provider. Most people can manage symptoms of pyrophobia with psychotherapy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/11/2022.
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