Pyrophobia is quite a common phobia and many people around the globe are known to be deeply afraid of fire. The word Pyrophobia originates from Greek ‘pur/pyr’ meaning fire and ‘phobos’ meaning fear or deep dread. To an extent, the fear of fire is healthy, evolutionary and normal. However, in case of a phobic, the fear turns debilitating, often affecting his/her daily life wherein one is unable to withstand even small or controlled fires.
To a Pyrophobic individual, the mere smell of smoke or something burning can trigger an intense anxiety attack. This causes him/her to constantly check the stove/gas leading to obsessive compulsive personality disorders.
Causes of fear of fire phobia
It is easy to understand where the fear of fire originates from.
Since ancient times, mankind has depended on fire but has also been burnt by it. Fire can cook food but it is known to cause large scale destruction. Since childhood, we are warned by parents and caregivers to stay away from fire.
House fires, though rare today, can still cause massive destruction to life and property. Man has been able to control them to an extent, by using sophisticated fire alarms and smoke detectors. But despite these things, dangerous blazes do occur even in the most advanced countries from time to time.
One such negative or traumatic experience with fire in the past (direct or indirect) is the most likely cause of Pyrophobia. Some phobics do not even remember how their fear originated in the first place. Psychoanalysis or hypnotherapy is required in such cases to delve deep into the phobic’s mind and establish the root cause of the phobia.
Symptoms of Pyrophobia
Like all other phobias, Pyrophobia is also characterized by anxiety and panic attacks when the individual is faced with a situation involving fire. S/he tends to have an extremely negative outlook towards all events that are likely to trigger fire hazards.
Physically and psychologically, the following symptoms might be present:
- Dry mouth, difficulty in swallowing, trembling, palpitations and shaking in the vicinity of fires.
- Some individuals cannot even stand small fires like birthday candles, fireworks etc.
- Thoughts of death or dying, feeling like choking.
- Going to abnormal lengths to prevent dangers from fires: Checking and rechecking several times a day to ensure the gas/stove is off, keeping an escape route ready in event fire does occur or spending huge amounts of money on fire extinguishers, smoke alarms etc are some examples of such behavior.
- Those with extreme levels of Pyrophobia experience a full blown panic attack at the sight, smell, or thought of fire: running away, fainting, screaming, feeling nauseated etc.
Such emotional turmoil caused by the phobia can deeply affect one’s normal functioning.
Overcoming and treating Pyrophobia
The first step in treating fear of fire phobia is to diagnose it. Often, the phobic is able to assess if his/her symptoms are affecting the normal ability to function. If this is the case, s/he should not hesitate in approaching a primary health care provider to discuss further treatment. When the phobia symptoms are extreme, medication must be taken to counter the anxiety symptoms.
Additionally, one must also utilize a few self help techniques to overcome the fear of fires phobia. Gradual desensitization or exposure therapy can be done with the help of family and friends or even a professional therapist. This involves looking at pictures of fires, thinking of fire and gradually progressing to being in the presence of small or controlled fire. An exposure of this sort can help the Pyrophobic control the anxiety response to fires.
The purpose of all these therapies is to get to the root cause of one’s Pyrophobia in order to help the individual regain confidence and etch out negative memories once and for all.