Pyrophobia: Fear of Fire

  • Time to read: 7 min.

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Pyrophobia is an intense fear of fire that can lead to severe anxiety and panic when confronted with anything related to flames or burning. It’s estimated that around 3% of the population suffer from some form of pyrophobia, which can range from mild discomfort in certain situations to a full-blown phobic reaction.

While this fear may seem irrational, it is actually rooted in a very natural instinct for self-preservation – after all, fire has been known to cause destruction and death throughout human history.

Nonetheless, those who suffer from this condition often find themselves severely limited by their fears and unable to enjoy activities like camping or going out on bonfires with friends due to their overwhelming dread. In order to better understand what causes pyrophobia and how it can be effectively treated, let’s take a closer look at the symptoms, causes and potential treatments available.

What is Pyrophobia?

Pyrophobia, the fear of fire, is a type of phobia that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s a feeling of intense panic and anxiety that is triggered by the sight, sound, smell, or even the thought of fire. For some people, the fear is so debilitating that they avoid anything related to fire, including candles, matches, stoves or even lighting a barbecue. 

The word “pyrophobia” originates from the Greek word “pyro,” which means fire and “phobos,” meaning fear or dread. In ancient Greek mythology, Hephaestus, the god of fire, was also known as a god of fear, which further highlights the ancient origins of this phenomenon.

Pyrophobia or fear of fire is expressed differently in various cultures and languages. Several cultures regard fire as a powerful symbol and associate it with various religious and spiritual beliefs.

For instance, in Hinduism, fire god Agni is considered as the messenger of the gods and is associated with purification, but in Buddhism, fire symbolizes desires that lead to suffering. In Japan, fire festivals are celebrated, while in India, firewalking is seen as a ritual that guarantees a clean slate. 

In some Native American cultures, fire represents the four elements, and it’s believed that it helps in communication with spirits. While in some African cultures, the fear of fire is linked to ancestral worship, with the flame being symbolic of the ancestors’ presence. Similarly, in Islamic culture, fire is often used as a metaphor for punishment, which can contribute to pyrophobia. 

It’s also interesting to note how pyrophobia is expressed in various languages. In German, the word for pyrophobia is “Feuerangst,” while in Dutch, it’s “brandangst.” In French, it’s “pyrophobie,” while in Spanish, it’s “pirofobia.” These variations of pyrophobia’s name reflect significant differences in how people perceive and express their fear of fire across languages and cultures. 

Symptoms of Pyrophobia

Pyrophobia, also known as the fear of fire, is a condition that can be debilitating and life-altering. It is a type of anxiety disorder that causes individuals to experience intense and irrational fear when confronted with fire or the possibility of it. In this section, we will discuss the most common symptoms associated with pyrophobia.

Physical Symptoms

Pyrophobia can cause a variety of physical and psychological symptoms that can be overwhelming and frightening. Some of the most common physical symptoms include rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, difficulty breathing, and even trembling or shaking. These symptoms are the body’s natural response to a perceived threat, and they can be quite distressing to experience.

Emotional Symptoms

In addition to physical symptoms, pyrophobia can also cause a range of emotional symptoms. These may include feelings of panic or dread, overwhelming anxiety or fear, and even a sense of detachment or disassociation. Individuals with pyrophobia illness anxiety disorder may also experience mood swings, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Behavioral Symptoms

Pyrophobia can also cause a range of behavioral symptoms, which may be observed by others. These may include avoiding situations that could potentially involve fire, such as cooking with gas stoves, lighting candles, or even sitting near a bonfire. Individuals with pyrophobia may also go to great lengths to avoid situations where fire may be present, which can interfere with daily life and social activities.

Cognitive Symptoms

Finally, pyrophobia can also cause a range of cognitive symptoms, which relate to how individuals think and perceive the world around them. These may include intrusive thoughts about fire and its potential dangers, recurring nightmares or flashbacks, and an overall sense of unease intense anxiety or paranoia. These symptoms can be particularly distressing and can interfere with everyday life, just like the fear of heights.

Causes of Pyrophobia

Even though it’s generally associated with traumatic events like experiencing a house fire or a near-death experience, there are other reasons why someone might develop pyrophobia.


Trauma is one of the most common causes of pyrophobia. As mentioned earlier, experiencing a fire or a near-death experience can leave a lasting impression on the psyche. A person who has been through such an event may start to develop a fear of fire as a way to protect themselves from similar situations.

Neurological Factors

Recent research has shown that neurological factors can play a role in the development of pyrophobia and other phobias. Individuals who have a heightened sensitivity to sensory stimulation may be more prone to develop phobias, including pyrophobia.

Environmental Factors

Our environment can influence the development of phobias. Children who grow up with parents who have an irrational fear of fire, for example, may also develop a fear of fire as they grow up. Exposure to media that depicts fire as a dangerous force can also have an impact on an individual’s likelihood of developing specific phobic disorder or pyrophobia.


Research has also shown that genetics may play a role in the development of phobias. Individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders or phobias are more likely to develop pyrophobia. This is likely because they inherit a predisposition from their family members.

Treatments for Pyrophobia

If you suffer from pyrophobia, you are not alone. Many people have an irrational fear of fire, but thankfully there are a number of treatment options available to help you overcome this debilitating phobia. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most effective treatment methods for pyrophobia.


Talking to a licensed therapist is often the first line of treatment for pyrophobia. Therapists can help patients identify the root causes of their fear and provide them with coping mechanisms to manage their anxiety. Therapy sessions can also help patients desensitize themselves to the object of their fears through a gradual, exposure therapy process.

For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a kind of therapy that involves changing negative thought patterns and behaviors related to the phobia. With the guidance of a CBT practitioner, patients learn to recognize and challenge their fears, and develop techniques to manage their anxiety.

Systematic Desensitization

Systematic desensitization is a type of therapy that is often used to treat phobias. It involves gradually exposing patients to their fears in a controlled environment, until they are desensitized to the object of their specific phobia themselves. For pyrophobia patients, this may involve exposure to small fires, controlled flames, or even a lit match.

During therapy sessions, patients may imagine or visualize their fear, and use relaxation techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to manage their anxiety. Over time, patients become less afraid of fire and can handle more intense forms of exposure.

Medication for Anxiety Disorders

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of pyrophobia. Medications like beta-blockers have been used to control the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and shaking. Anti-anxiety medications can also be prescribed on a short-term basis to manage severe anxiety related to phobias.

However, medications do not address the root causes of phobias or mental disorders like pyrophobia, and should be used in conjunction with therapy or other forms of treatment.

Tips for Coping with the Fear of Fire

In addition to professional treatment for pyrophobia, there are a number of things you can do on your own to cope with the fear of fire. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Identify the triggers of your fear and find ways to avoid or limit exposure to them.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.
  • Create a list of positive thoughts or calming mantras that you can use when you start to feel anxious around fire.
  • Talk to friends or family members who are understanding and supportive of your fear.
  • Keep a journal of your experiences and feelings.
  • Join a support group for people who suffer from phobias or anxiety disorders.

By doing your best to manage the fear of fire, you can take back control of your life and enjoy activities that involve fire without feeling overwhelmed. With the right help and support, you can learn to tolerate fire and find a sense of peace in your life.

Final Thoughts on Dealing with Pyrophobia

Pyrophobia is an irrational fear of fire that can cause feelings of serious panic attacks and interfere with everyday activities. If you think you may be suffering from this phobia, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. With the right treatment and support, you can learn to manage your fear and take back control of your life.

FAQ – Pyrophobia: Fear of Fire

Why is pyrophobia dangerous?

Pyrophobia can be a dangerous phobia because it can cause people to avoid safety procedures and put themselves in risky situations. It is important to seek professional help if you think that your fear of fire is interfering with your life.

How can I cope with pyrophobia?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy and systematic desensitization can be effective treatments for pyrophobia. Other strategies such as relaxation techniques, positive self-talk, and support from family and friends can also help manage the fear of fire.

What should I do if I feel overwhelmed by fear?

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by fear, it is important to take a step back and focus on calming techniques such as deep breathing and visualization. It is also important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional who can provide the right treatment and support.