Self-injuring acts are among the most dramatic behaviours exhibited by human beings. There is no known single cause and there is no universally agreed upon treatment. Sophisticated sequential and temporal analysis of behaviour has provided alternative descriptions of self-injury that provide new insights into its initiation and maintenance.
Forty hours of observations for each of 32 participants were collected in a contiguous two-week period. Twenty categories of behavioural and environmental events were recorded electronically that captured the precise time each observation occurred. Temporal behavioural/environmental patterns associated with self-injurious events were revealed with a method (t-patterns; THEME) for detecting non-linear, real-time patterns.
Results indicated that acts of self-injury contributed both to more patterns and to more complex patterns. Moreover, self-injury left its imprint on the organization of behaviour even when counts of self-injury were expelled from the continuous record.
Behaviour of participants was organized in a more diverse array of patterns with SIB was present. Self-injuring acts may function as singular points, increasing coherence within self-organizing patterns of behaviour.