Pyrophobia (Fear of Fire)
Pyrophobia is the irrational fear of fire. Someone suffering from this condition will find it extremely difficult to be near fire or to even see fire. Doing so will inevitably give them a high amount of anxiety, which may even lead to them experiencing a full blown panic attack insofar as they have the genetics to do so.
As is the case with virtually all other phobias, someone suffering from pyrophobia will try to avoid that which they fear in an attempt to reduce the amount of anxiety they would otherwise experience. Luckily, someone suffering from an irrational fear of fire will likely not be pressured or enticed to spend a great deal of their day trying to avoid certain areas or places to avoid their fear as fires are often a rarity and are oftentimes unavoidable, unless it’s being used to cook or for warmth.
Someone suffering from pyrophobia may ensure that things in their homes are powered by electricity, as opposed to gas. For example, their fear of fire may motivate them to get an electric stove as opposed to a gas stove so they won’t have to see any flames. The same can be said for the way they heat their home. The severity of their pyrophobia will significantly dictate the lengths to which they will go to avoid their fear of fire.
People with this disorder may be overly concerned with preventing fire in their own homes or in any public place they happen to be at. For example, when someone with pyrophobia walks into a place of business, they may be hyper-aware of where all of the main exits are just in case a fire were to manifest.
Symptoms of Pyrophobia
Someone suffering from full blown pyrophobia can expect to find themselves enduring a great deal of anxiety when around fire or when merely thinking of it. In such a situation, they will likely not be able to handle the intense amount of anxiety they will inevitably experience. As previously mentioned, they may even experience a full blown panic attack as well.
People suffering from pyrophobia will not only have an aversion to large fires which can cause a great deal of destruction, but they may also enter into a fight or flight state of mind at the mere sight of a lit, home fire place. In short, even in a situation where fire is present and there is no apparent danger or logical reason to be extremely fearful or concerned, they may still feel this way. This should come to no surprise as pyrophobia is a mental illness and not just an aversion to fire.
In some extreme cases, someone suffering from an intense fear of fire may do things like unplug all kitchen appliances and household items (e.g. TV’s, lamps, etc.) to ensure that there is no chance of a fuse sparking and creating a house fire. This is just one of many other plausible behaviors that someone with pyrophobia may exhibit.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of pyrophobia:
Anxiety when they’re near fire
Anxiety when thinking of fire
Unable to cope with their fear
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Pyrophobia
There is no definitive cause of pyrophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play very significant roles. For example, someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially of other phobias may have a higher chance of developing an irrational fear of fire. This may be due to them also being at risk for having a genetic predisposition to developing mental illness.
If someone were to have such a genetic predisposition, then it may only require that they experience some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown pyrophobia. For example, someone who suffered 3rd degree burns from a fire may easily develop full blown pyrophobia insofar as they have the genetics to do so. The same can be said for someone who accidentally lit part of their house on fire due to a cooking mishap or some other ill-advised incident.
Though there is no definitive cause for all mental illnesses, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that both genetics and one’s environment play very significant roles in the development of virtually any given mental disorder. So, taking a closer look at these two different parameters may shed some light as to whether or not you are at risk for developing pyrophobia..
Pyrophobia Treatments (abridged)
As is the case with virtually all other phobias, exposure therapy may be able to significantly help improve the symptoms of pyrophobia. Exposure therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to their fear over a specified amount of time. Theoretically, the more the patient is exposed to their fear, the less it will bother them over time. This is essentially the goal of exposure therapy: To desensitize the patient to their irrational fear.
So, someone suffering from this condition engaging in exposure therapy may be exposed to fire by first looking at pictures or videos of it. The therapist may then move on to exposing the patient to an actual lit flame from a cigarette lighter, for example. Though doing these things will inevitably give the patient a high amount of unwanted anxiety, doing so consistently should help them to reduce their long-term suffering insofar as it relates to their irrational fear of fire by helping them to become desensitized to it.
Anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants may also help to reduce some of the symptoms associated with pyrophobia as well. However, merely taking medication without any form of therapy may not be very effective for long-term treatment, but this is something that you will want to first discuss with your doctor.
If you feel as though you may be suffering from pyrophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms described in this article, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, he may refer you to see a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist for further treatment.
Yoga Poses for Pyrophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from pyrophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with pyrophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with pyrophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with pyrophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of pyrophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Pyrophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from pyrophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with pyrophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of pyrophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Meditation for Pyrophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from pyrophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from pyrophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with pyrophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of pyrophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with pyrophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Pyrophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as pyrophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with pyrophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with pyrophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their pyrophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with pyrophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Pyrophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with pyrophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with pyrophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with pyrophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with pyrophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Psychiatric Medications for Pyrophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe pyrophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their pyrophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as pyrophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of pyrophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of pyrophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Exercise for Pyrophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including pyrophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of pyrophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of pyrophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with pyrophobia over time.
Limiting Caffeine for Pyrophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with pyrophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with pyrophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Pyrophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like pyrophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with pyrophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with pyrophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with pyrophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your pyrophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.