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What is giftophobia? - Definition, Symptoms, Causes & Effects

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Giftophobia is real!

Yes, you read that right. You’ve heard of claustrophobia, acrophobia, hydrophobia - even phobophobia which is the fear of phobias themselves. But what is giftophobia? Those shiny wrapped presents, boxes with bows on them, cute cardboard patterning - how could they possibly be causing fear?

What is Giftophobia?

Well, giftophobia defines something deeper than just a fear of gifts. Giftophobia - a concept that has been searched for millions of times, only yields a few hits on Google. The meaning of giftophobia is a fear of gift-giving, gifts - the whole process in general. Many giftophobes procrastinate choosing a gift for someone till the last moment, may rely on others to help them choose a gift, dread having to get a gift for someone they perceive as difficult to give to and develop a lot of anxiety about this whole concept. In some situations, this can greatly affect the giftophobe’s relationships with others, their confidence, their social life and just their happiness in general. It may sound dramatic, but it’s true - gift giving is something everyone takes part in at some point in their life. If you’re wondering, “do I have giftophobia”, read further to learn more about this prevalent issue.

In our current society, gift giving is a fundamental part of many traditions, holidays and industries - it enhances the very relationships that eventually form our society. Relationships between family members, significant others, friends, work colleagues, long-distance acquaintances - even strangers; all the various units of our community participate in gift exchanges at some point or another. Gift giving has a long history in our civilization, some believe that it started with the birth of Jesus and the three wise men. However, it is even seen in nature with animals such as penguins who try to find the perfect pebble to give their partner or crows who leave shiny objects for people who feed them

What are the causes of giftophobia?

How can something so common and inherent such as gift giving cause fear and confusion? One of the biggest reasons for this gift giving anxiety is that with the advances in technology, industry and social media - there are so many ideas, products and concepts floating around that some people may have lost touch with what makes gifts special.

According to research, it’s not always the most expensive, complicated or trendy gift that makes for a happy recipient. But when we spend hours on social media looking at various product reviews, celebrities using certain products and a plethora of opinions on what would make for the best gift - it is no wonder that giftophobia is so common. With a few taps on their smartphone, that person falls deeper into the spiral of gift giving anxiety and confusion. They might even end up resorting to gift cards, as this is an easy alternative to avoiding confusion. However, this might come off as impersonal and thoughtless, and further reinforce the gift giving anxiety the person faces.

What are the effects of giftophobia?

Many studies have shown that getting the “wrong” gift for someone can cause rifts in our relationship with them as they might think they are not as special or profoundly thought of. According to Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, “Choosing the wrong gift can be kind of risky for relationships because it says you don’t have anything in common,“. Undesirable gifts may even negatively influence the recipient’s view of a relationship’s future potential. This concept definitely adds a lot of pressure, trying to make sure you get the “right” gift causes a lot of anxiety, thus the procrastination and asking others for help. In general, there is a lot of pressure around gift giving, if someone gives us something nice - then we feel as if we’re expected to give something equally great or even better in return which further adds to overthinking or anxiety related to choosing an appropriate gift. Research has even found that someone who already has increased anxiety about gift giving, is more likely to be embarrassed or negatively impact their relationship because of this overthinking.

Giftophobia is a real issue that is not addressed even though it is so common. It’s getting even more common now as people get busier with their lives, not having as much time to make gifts or reflect on what makes a great gift. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios. It’s one of your friend’s birthdays, all your other friends are going to come to the party and see what you got for that friend as well. You really want to maintain a good friendship with that friend and have a good impression on everyone else, especially because all these friends have really been there for you. While trying to find something meaningful, you go on Amazon or the mall and see a hundred replicates of the same thing - nothing really says “this is for you”. Undoubtedly, this keeps adding to your confusion about what to get, with the mounting pressure of getting something perfect - and you find yourself lost and in fear of gift giving. Another example is that of Christmas time and Secret Santa; you pick the name of a colleague you don’t really know, this could be the time to start a good friendship with them. But if you get something they don’t like or appreciate - that could negatively affect the friendship before it even starts. Once again, you are faced with the anxiety and confusion of gift giving.

It’s ironic that in today’s world, with the increased accessibility of online shopping, internet browsing and social media - giftophobia is an even greater issue. Maybe the root of the problem lies in not enjoying or reflecting on the simple joys of life enough, and being in touch with what really makes us happy.

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