For present purposes, categories (a), (b), (c), (d), (i), and (j) in Table 3 are excluded from this presentation. Detailed discussion of these and numerous case vignettes can be found elsewhere.(2)

Fire-raising committed for mixed and unclear reasons

These are cases in which it is difficult to ascribe a single specific motive. They may include the presence of a degree of mild (reactive) depression which may lead the fire-raiser to direct anger at a spouse or partner; thus revenge may also play a part. This group will also include cases in which the fire-raising may be a disguised plea for help, or a reaction to sudden separation or bereavement; in some of these cases alcohol appears to play a part.

Fire-raising due to serious mental disorder

Functional psychoses, notably the schizophrenias, may play a part in some acts of fire-raising. Such cases will most likely be accommodated in secure hospitals of one kind or another. Manic-depressive psychosis features occasionally, the classic case being that of Jonathan Martin, the nineteenth century arsonist who set fire to York Minster.(2>

Fire-raising associated with organic disorders

Occasionally, brain tumour, injury, epilepsy, dementia, or metabolic disturbance may play a part. For example, although epilepsy is not commonly associated with fire-raising, one should always be on the lookout for the case in which such a crime has been committed when the person appeared not to be in a state of clear consciousness or when onlookers were present. Examples of organic states and their relationship to fire-raising are given elsewhere. (19,2° and 21> The possible relationship between mental retardation and fire-raising is discussed by Prins. (2)

Fire-raising motivated by revenge

Those incidents motivated by revenge are potentially the most dangerous. However, in considering the link between motives of revenge and fire-raising, it is important to stress that it is hazardous to try to place motivations for fire-raising behaviour in discrete categories; the vengeful fire-raiser may show clear signs of identifiable mental illness, may be mentally and/or physically impaired, or may not be 'ill' in any formal psychiatric sense.


Pyromaniacs are fire-raisers who do not appear to be suffering to any significant extent from formal mental disorder or to be operating from motives of gain or revenge. They appear to derive a pathological excitement from setting the fire, attending the scene, busying themselves at it, or having called out the fire brigade in the first instance. DSM-IV lists six differential diagnostic criteria for the condition: (22)

1. deliberate and purposeful fire setting on more than one occasion;

2. affective arousal and tension prior to the act;

3. fascination with, and attraction to, fire and its situational context;

4. pleasure, gratification or relief when setting fires or witnessing or involvement in their aftermath;

5. the exclusion of other causes (see above);

6. the fire-setting is not 'better accounted for' by conduct disorder, or antisocial personality disorder. Sexually motivated fire-raising

Fras(23) has summarized much of the history of the relationship between sexual satisfaction/excitement and fire-raising. The infrequency of the relationship in practice should not blind clinicians to the possibility of its existence in certain cases, or its similarity to sex offending. As Fras states, 'In its comparative, stereotyped sequence of mounting pressure ... it resembles the sexual perversions, as it may parallel them in its imperviousness to treatment'. (23) It is noteworthy that Hurly and Monahan(!9» found 54 per cent of the arsonists that they studied at a psychiatric prison in the United Kingdom had clear psychosexual difficulties and marital problems, and that 60 per cent reported difficulties in social relationships with women.

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