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Anxiety is one of the most Common Symptoms in Children with Retained Primitive Reflexes | ilslearningcorner.com

Anxiety is one of the most Common Symptoms in Children with Retained Primitive Reflexes

This article provides helpful information that discusses anxiety and retained Primitive Reflexes. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

Anxiety is becoming more common in young children and teens. It is often linked to many of the same sensations that are associated with motion sickness or trouble with the vestibular, visual and proprioceptive systems. Many of these symptoms are also tied to retained Primitive Reflexes. If a child has one or more retained reflexes that are impacting the vestibular or proprioceptive systems, anxiety may become one of the biproducts as mentioned in this study here.

But first, let’s take a look at what anxiety is and how it impacts a child.

What does Anxiety look like in a Child?

When a child experiences anxiousness or anxiety, they most likely have some type of physical reaction. The child may have:

  • Increased heart rate (racing pulse)
  • Increased rate of breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Increased acid production in the stomach (nausea or jelly legs)

You may also notice the child reacting in many of the following ways:

  • Panic disorders
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Acute Distress disorder

If children suffer from anxiety, it often manifests itself in three ways:

  • Cognitively (in thoughts)
  • Somatically (in physiological or biological processes)
  • Feelings (emotions)

What could be one cause of Anxiety in Children?

There are a number of factors that could play into a child experiencing anxiousness and anxiety-type behaviors. Anxiety is often found in kids with an underdeveloped vestibular system. If the child is not getting enough vestibular input, they may show symptoms of anxiety and depression. These types of kids seem out of touch with the world and have trouble with self-confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance.

If vestibular-generated anxiety occurs in certain situations, the child may develop avoidance behavior. If it becomes a fixed behavioral pattern, it may lead to other phobias. More purposeful movement activities that directly target the vestibular system are therapeutic for these children and can reduce their anxiety.

If anxiety is caused by external factors within the child’s environment, the child may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy.

Retained Primitive Reflexes and Anxiety

The reflexes most commonly associated with anxiety are the Moro reflex, the Fear Paralysis reflex, the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) reflex and the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) reflex. Ironically, all of these reflexes are often known as the vestibular reflexes.

Here’s what you may find when each reflex is retained:

Fear Paralysis Reflex

If a child continues through life with a retained Fear Paralysis reflex, they may face lifelong anxiety disorders. The Fear Paralysis reflex may create anxiety over seemingly small matters, which can turn into panic disorders, phobias or nightmares. You may also see responses like deer in the headlights, emotional changes and the inability to adjust to social situations.

Eventually the reflex will cause anxiety during sleep as well as during hours of the day. You may notice the child having night terrors where it’s difficult to wake them up.

Moro Reflex

When the Moro reflex is retained, frightening situations become even more scary. The Moro reflex lowers the response level to events that may already be frightening, making the child more anxious.

The Moro reflex causes children to overreact to certain stimuli within their environment. When this happens, the child often has strong responses to situations that trigger the reaction. As a result, fears and anxiety create unpleasant feelings that lead to immature or inappropriate behaviors. These types of kids avoid change and cling to anything that seems comfortable and familiar.

Both the Moro and the Fear Paralysis reflexes can trigger the fight or flight response. Kids who have trouble in social situations may run at any moment or stand fight when they feel threatened. These kids can be seen as weird, overbearing, different or controlling to their peers.

If the Moro reflex is retained, a child’s anxiety may also trigger panic attacks, extreme mood swings, insecurities and chronic fears.

TLR Reflex

Children who have a retained TLR reflex show the highest scores in anxiety when compared to other children. A child with a retained TLR reflex is highly likely to struggle with balance, which can cause dizziness and vertigo (all related to vestibular input). As we learn from the information above, this is one of the key factors that can cause anxiety in children.

When the child moves their head forward or backward, it prevents the body’s ability to maintain upright balance. If the child becomes unstable or unbalanced, it can trigger anxiety in the child because their vestibular system is underdeveloped.

STNR Reflex

Similar to the TLR reflex, when a child experiences motion sickness, vertigo and fear of heights because of a poor vestibular system, it creates anxiety in the child. Anytime the child no longer feels grounded because their balance or vestibular is off within their environment, they become fearful and anxious.

Retention of the STNR reflex causes the child to be out of touch with their feelings and emotions. When this happens, the child feels even more anxiety, frustration, confusion, rebelliousness and loss of self-esteem.

To learn more about retained Primitive Reflexes and how to get on the right path toward integration, grab our free Retained Primitive Reflexes roadmap below.


Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

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