Self-injurious behaviour in people with intellectual disability

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2010 Sep;23(5):412-6. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32833cfb80.


Purpose of review: To provide a critical evaluation of a broad range of peer-reviewed published studies of relevance to self-injurious behaviour in people with intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders.

Recent findings: The review covers the prevalence of self-injurious behaviour, the characteristics of those showing the behaviour, self-injury in autism spectrum disorders, biological influences on self-injurious behaviour, behavioural assessment and psychological and pharmacological interventions.

Summary: The recent literature describes systematic evaluation of the efficacy of aripiprazole, and parent training combined with risperidone. Meta-analyses of behavioural interventions provide evidence of their efficacy and related research describes beneficial modification to behavioural assessment procedures. The prevalence literature provides data on individual characteristics that are associated with persistence and presence of self-injury and that might be considered as risk markers. Pain behaviour appears to be associated with self-injury, with implications for theories of the involvement of endorphins, and as a causal factor. In combination, these research findings demonstrate the multiple influences on self-injurious behaviour that must be taken into account in the assessment, formulation, intervention process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / complications
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / complications*
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / complications*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / diagnosis
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / therapy