Behavioral Disorders/Self Injurious Behavior

To find patient care programs and faculty treating behavioral disorders/self-injurious behavior at Kennedy Krieger Institute, as well as research investigating this disorder, please see the right-hand column below. Additional helpful information, including definitions, symptoms, Institute press releases, Potential magazine articles, and other resources outside the Institute, have also been provided for readers on this page.

Behavioral Disorders/Self Injurious Behavior Overview:

Self-injurious behavior (SIB), displayed by individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities, involves the occurrence of behavior that results in physical injury to one's own body. Common forms of SIB include, but are not limited to, head-hitting, head-banging and hand-biting. In the most severe cases, SIB can result in retinal detachment, blindness, broken bones, bleeding or death. SIB is displayed by 10 to 15 percent of individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. These estimates are higher among individuals living in institutions and among those with greater cognitive impairments. SIB is also associated with certain genetic disorders, such as Lesch-Nyhan and Rett Syndromes.

Individuals may engage in SIB for a variety of reasons. In some cases, SIB may occur because it results in favorable outcomes, such as attention from caregivers or the termination of academic or instructional demands. SIB may also be biologically based. For example, some research has suggested that SIB may result in the release of chemicals in the brain that produce pleasurable effects. Although there is considerable evidence to support of all of these explanations, current thought indicates that SIB is a highly complex, heterogeneous phenomenon that is often attributable to a combination of factors.

Examples, Subsets and Synonyms for Behavioral Disorders:

  • Noncompliance
  • Aggression
  • Self-injurious Behavior
  • Pica
  • Enuresis
  • Encopresis
  • Behavioral Feeding Disorders