Autism and Self-Injury

Some autism symptoms may be a risk factor for self-injury

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Kids with autism may feel frustrated in social situations. That frustration can lead to self-injury, like head banging.  Researchers want to know who is at risk for self-injury.

A recent study looked at symptoms of autism to see how they were related to self-injury.

Kids who were more impulsive and had more repetitive behaviors were more likely to also have self-injury behaviors.

Knowing the risks may help parents and doctors to watch for signs of self-injury.

"Speak with a psychiatrist if your child has signs of self-injury."

Researchers, led by David M. Richman, PhD, of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research at Texas Tech University, looked at information from 617 people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who were part of a national database.

The national database contained information from interviews and surveys about symptoms and behaviors of the people with ASD.

They found that three symptoms were the biggest predictors of self-injury: impulsivity, repetitive behaviors and mental ability.

Higher levels of impulsivity – or the tendency to act on impulse without thinking – was linked to self-injury.

People with ASD who had more repetitive behaviors were more likely to self-injure. Rocking and repeating a word are common repetitive behaviors for people with autism.

People with lower levels of mental ability were more likely to have self-injury behaviors.

The authors think that these risk factors may help parents and doctors to see the risk for self-injury. Then, they can watch out for early signs of self-injury or seek treatment for it.

Future studies are needed to see if treatments to improve these symptoms might lower the risk for self-injury.

This study was published September 24 in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. Funding information was not available on the journal’s website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 4, 2012
Last Updated:
October 5, 2012