Pyrophobia: Fear of Fire - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Have you ever been scared of fire at a barbeque or while blowing your birthday candles? Getting scared of fire is a natural instinct, but if it’s over the extreme, one can have Pyrophobia. Pyrophobia has been derived from Greek word ‘pyr’ meaning fire. This is one of the commonly occurring phobias in people, which is signified by irrational and overwhelming fear of fire. In almost all cases, the fire is non-existing or possesses no risk at all. A person might feel anxiety due to smoke and even small flares like those of candles. The phobia can lead some people to develop OCD related with checking gas and stoves regularly.

Pyrophobia, fear of fire

What Causes Pyrophobia?

The major factors that may cause Pyrophobia in people are:

Evolutionary Survival Mechanism

Fire is one of the first things that mankind discovered in this world. While it has been a daily requirement since those early eras, it has also been known to cause deadliest of destruction to the society. Since early childhood, our parents teach us that fire can be harmful and dangerous. Such learnt behavior can magnify itself over the time, and eventually become overwhelming to people.

A traumatic Experience

Any distress and trauma that has been caused by fire in the past can also cause Pyrophobia in a person. If a person had faced any accidents in house fire, bomb blast, forest fires, abuse using fire or other such torment due to fire and flames, he/she can probably develop Pyrophobia.

Symptoms of Pyrophobia

Major symptoms that occur in both children and adults are:

  • Extreme and irrational fear of fire, smoke and even small flares
  • Complete avoidance of situations involving fire like barbeque or campfires
  • Feeling uncomfortable and sickened upon the sight of fire
  • Realization that the fear is irrelevant ( except in children)
  • Panic attacks with physical signs such as trembling, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or fainting, sweating, numbness and getting fixed, trouble in breathing, racing heart beat and dry mouth

When to visit a doctor?

Fire is a major part of daily tasks like cooking. A prolonged state of pyrophobia with symptoms occurring more than six months time can affect daily life negatively. In such condition, consulting a doctor would be the best option.

How is Pyrophobia treated?

A combination of therapies and medicines help to bring Pyrophobia in control.

Exposure therapy with Relaxation

Exposure therapy can be an ideal method to start with the treatment for Pyrophobia. The therapist directs a person to confront a situation involving fire or smoke, and analyzes the behavior. The major aim of exposure therapy is to build up resistance for fear in the person through regular and safe exposures. Besides, the therapist also teaches relaxation techniques such as mind visualization, breathing control and meditation to deal with the anxiety.  

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the effective psychotherapeautic method which focuses on molding a positive thinking and behavior in a person. In context of Pyrophobia, the therapist tries to study the negative thoughts associated with fire, and tries changing them into positive ones. Hypnosis can also be used to recognize the traumatic event or inner thought that brought pyrophobia in a person.

Medicines

In serious cases, medicines are also used to control the fear and anxiety. Commonly used medicines are anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medicines. These help to balance the brain chemicals such as Serotonin responsible for mood and temperament of a person.