Video resource: Self-injurious behaviour

What causes self-injurious behaviour? What action should parents and carers take? Watch this video to understand the causes and the function of self injurious behaviour, and the use of medication and protective devices.

Professors Chris Oliver and Glynis Murphy, the UK’s leading authorities on self-injurious behaviour, join forces to offer clear and practical information and advice to families caring for individuals with severe learning disabilities. In this 45 minute video you will also meet Laura and Tobias, learn how their self-injurious behaviour has affected their lives and the lives of their families, and how some simple, straightforward steps can help to reduce self-injurious behaviour.

The video emphasizes understanding the causes and the function of the self injurious behaviour, and addresses issues such as the use of medication and protective devices. Produced primarily for family carers, this resource also provides a useful introduction to any professionals who may encounter self-injurious behaviour in individuals with severe learning disabilities

Please note: contains scenes which some viewers may find disturbing

Running time: 45 mins approx



  • Laura and Tobias

What is self-injurious behaviour?

  • Common forms of self-injurious behaviour
  • Distinguishing self-injurious behaviour in people with mild and moderate learning disability from that in people with severe learning disability

Causes of self injurious behaviour

  • Background biological factors
  • Learned behaviour
  • Other factors

Understanding the behaviour

  • Is it a pain indicator?
  • Look for triggers
  • Is the environment unstimulating?
  • Identify contributory background factors

What action should parents and carers take?

  • Keep the individual safe
  • Do protective devices help?
  • Seek specialist advice
  • Teach communication skills
  • Is medication the solution?


  • Seek help as soon as possible
  • High risk children and early warning signs
  • Parents’ perspectives
  • Five points to remember
  • Understanding makes the difference

A physical copy of the DVD is available free to family/ unpaid carers in the UK.

Visit our shop to order a copy

Self-injurious behaviour

Self-injurious behaviour

Quick read guide to self-injurious behaviour with a complete information sheet available to download. Find out what it is, how you can get help with this kind of behaviour, and about medication and protective devices.

Peer support

Peer support

The CBF is offering free peer support for family carers from your own homes during the Coronavirus pandemic. On this page you can read about 'Peer support calls' and 'Carers' Catch Ups'.

Family Support Service

Family Support Service

The Family Support Service can provide information and support about the needs of your family member with a severe learning disability. Our support is confidential, and we won’t judge you or tell you what to do.