Self-injurious behaviour in individuals with intellectual disabilities

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2005 Sep;18(5):484-9. doi: 10.1097/01.yco.0000179484.62391.dc.


Purpose of review: In this paper we review literature published in 2004 on self-injurious behaviour in individuals with intellectual disabilities. Reviewed studies examine phenomenology and comorbidity, pharmacological and other interventions, genetic syndromes, and behavioural assessment and treatment.

Recent findings: Key findings include the possible association between self-injury and impulse control and stereotyped behaviours. Reports on the use of pharmacological interventions provide little evidence for the use such interventions, although the findings of studies on naltrexone seem stronger. In the behavioural phenotype literature the predictors of self-injury in Prader-Willi syndrome are becoming more refined. The behaviour analysis literature reports further development of assessment methodology to cater for idiosyncratic functions and low-rate behaviours.

Summary: Developments in the fields of applied behaviour analysis and genetic syndromes highlight the importance of tailored assessments and interventions. Evidence from the pharmacological literature suggests that although significant numbers of individuals are prescribed such interventions, the research evidence for their efficacy is, at best, weak.