Self-injurious behaviour in movement disorders: systematic review

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2020 Jul;91(7):712-719. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2019-322569. Epub 2020 May 19.


Self-injurious behaviours (SIBs) are defined as deliberate, repetitive and persistent behaviours that are directed towards the body and lead to physical injury and are not associated with sexual arousal and without suicidal intent. In movement disorders, SIBs are typically associated with tic disorders, most commonly Tourette syndrome, and neurometabolic conditions, such as classic Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. However, beyond these well-known aetiologies, a range of other movement disorder syndromes may also present with SIBs, even though this clinical association remains less well-known. Given the scarcity of comprehensive works on this topic, here we performed a systematic review of the literature to delineate the spectrum of movement disorder aetiologies associated with SIBs. We report distinct aetiologies, which are clustered in five different categorical domains, namely, neurodevelopmental, neurometabolic and neurodegenerative disorders, as well as disorders with characteristic structural brain changes and heterogeneous aetiologies (eg, autoimmune and drug-induced). We also provide insights in the pathophysiology of SIBs in these patients and discuss neurobiological key risk factors, which may facilitate their manifestation. Finally, we provide a list of treatments, including practical measures, such as protective devices, as well as behavioural interventions and pharmacological and neurosurgical therapies.

Keywords: movement disorders; neuropsychiatry; tourette syndrome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Movement Disorders / complications*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / complications*