Pharmacological treatment of mood disturbances, aggression, and self-injury in persons with pervasive developmental disorders

J Autism Dev Disord. 2000 Oct;30(5):439-45. doi: 10.1023/a:1005555624566.


Aggression, self-injury, and mood disturbances in persons with autistic disorders, while not uncommon, do not constitute core features of autism. Moreover, these problems can occur for a variety of reasons, which need to be assessed in order to plan appropriate and frequently combined (behavioral-pharmacological) treatments. Drugs acting primarily in the dopaminergic, serotonergic, adrenergic, opioidergic, and glutamatergic systems all have been explored in the treatment of aggression and self-injury. While no single drug or class of medication has yet emerged as consistently effective, a number of drugs appear promising. Advances in the assessment of aggressive behaviors, the identification of predictors of drug response, and additional controlled clinical drug trials specifically aimed at these target behaviors are essential in improving the approach to these problematic behaviors in the context of autistic disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / etiology*
  • Mood Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / etiology*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / prevention & control*


  • Psychotropic Drugs