Children as young as seven are cutting themselves to deal with pain.

That’s according to a new study of nearly 700 children which finds that nine percent of girls and almost seven percent of boys surveyed have engaged in self-injurious behaviors like cutting, banging their heads or hitting themselves. Kids as young as seven are harming themselves as a way to deal with pain.

“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that instances of cutting are happening in younger children,” said South Jersey Psychologist Dr. Angela Clack. “For many of these children, environmental stresses like bullying or peer exclusion are the reasons they begin to inflict pain on themselves.”

“I think kids are undergoing a lot more stress in this day and age and they’re also exposed to a great deal of information,” said Dr. Steven Tobias, Director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown. “It’s a pain that they can control and feel unlike the pain that they have in their everyday lives that they feel they have no control over.”

What are the signs a parent should look for? “Certainly look for signs of depression and isolation. If something bad has happened in their lives, that can certainly put them at risk,” said Tobias. “It’s not something that develops overnight. Usually, there are factors leading up to it.”

“You can also look for long-sleeved shirts in the summer time or maybe the child isn’t wearing shorts when it’s very hot outside,” said Clack. “Usually, when a child is a cutter, they’ve been doing it for a while, so they know how to hide it or cut themselves in places that are less visible. Whatever the case may be, if you discover your child is cutting, seek professional help immediately. It’s important for parents to understand the difference between self-inflicted pain and suicidal tendencies. Generally, children who are hurting themselves by cutting, hitting themselves or something along those lines, aren’t looking to kill themselves. They’re looking to release pain.”