Pyrophobia (Fear of Fire)

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.


What is 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.


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Is it normal to be scared of fire?

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.

What is a phobia?

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.


How common is pyrophobia?

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.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes pyrophobia?

Pyrophobia doesn’t usually have a specific cause. Your risk may increase if you:

  • Had a traumatic experience with fire at some point in your life, such as accidentally starting a fire, getting a serious burn or living through a wildfire.
  • Have a family history of phobias, anxiety disorders or other mental health disorders.
  • Have other phobias or anxiety disorders.
  • Witness someone reacting to fire in a violent or traumatic way.

What are the symptoms of pyrophobia?

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:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is pyrophobia diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with a specific phobic disorder, such as pyrophobia, if you:

  • Develop symptoms of anxiety or panic at the sight or mention of fire.
  • Experience your fear of fire for six months or longer.
  • Go out of your way to avoid fire or the risk of fire.
  • Have difficulty functioning at home, work or in social situations due to your fear of fire.

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.

Management and Treatment

How is pyrophobia managed or treated?

Many people can work on overcoming their fear of fire with psychotherapy. Your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on helping you change the way you think about fire. It might include learning important facts about fire, such as fire statistics, how fires start or safe ways to extinguish fires. Your therapist can also teach you techniques to manage certain triggers. For example, deep breathing or meditation when you see fire or hear about fire can help you manage anxiety or the symptoms of a panic attack.
  • Exposure therapy: This type of psychotherapy slowly exposes you to fire or situations that relate to fire. This might include looking at pictures or videos of fire. You may work your way up to being able to look at a lit match or candle. Some studies also show benefits from virtual reality programs that allow participants to extinguish simulated fires.
  • Medication: This treatment hasn’t proven very effective for the long-term management of pyrophobia or other specific phobic disorders. But if you have frequent episodes of anxiety or panic that interfere with your ability to function, your healthcare provider may recommend an anti-anxiety drug.


Is there a way to prevent pyrophobia?

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:

  • Avoid caffeine, drugs or alcohol, which can make anxiety worse.
  • Stay in close communication with your therapist or other healthcare providers.
  • Talk with friends and family members about your fear or fire.

Outlook / Prognosis

What’s the prognosis (outlook) for people with pyrophobia?

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.

Living With

When should I call the doctor?

Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Difficulty functioning in your daily life due to fear of fire.
  • Symptoms of a panic attack.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • Can medication help me manage my fear of fire?
  • How can I find support for pyrophobia?
  • How long will I need psychotherapy?
  • Will I be afraid of fire for the rest of my life?

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/11/2022.

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