Istvan Banyai for Reader's DigestAm I the only one who thinks landlocked boats are ominous? Anyone else out there run screaming when you hear Christmas carolers approach? Surely others share my suspicions that Brad Pitt and Danny DeVito are brothers. No? Well, I know one thing: A lot of you have odd peccadilloes too. So we’ve shared a list of our readers’ obsessions and anxieties with therapists, doctors, professors, and TMZ (OK, not them) in hopes that they could answer the question … Is it just us?
I Hate Getting Presents.
Every time I get one, all I can think is, Oh, great—now I have to get her a present. Am I a grinch?
Technically, the Grinch did not hate getting presents at all. He liked them so much, in fact, he stole them. So for what it’s worth, you are not a grinch. Perhaps more reassuringly, you are also not alone.
There’s actually something called gift-giving anxiety, a condition described by University of Michigan professor D. B. Wooten as anxiety based on “the need for approval and fear of being seen or judged in a negative way.” When getting a gift means giving one—and giving one means worrying whether the gift is thoughtful, reciprocal, or expensive enough—naturally it’s not fun to get a gift. It feels like you’ve been given a test.
“There are a lot of sitcoms based on this,” chuckles Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. He recalls a sitcom-worthy situation with friends who traveled a lot and always brought him back a gift. “I’m not saying it was expensive. They’d go to Colombia and bring me back a bag of coffee. But that meant then I’d have to remember to pick up a present for them.”
This was so pointless—annoying, really—that eventually the doctor called them on it. “I said, ‘You don’t have to bring me something, because I really don’t like to look around for something for you.’ ” Except he put it more diplomatically: “Please! Spend the money on yourself.”
Poof! The problem (and gifts) disappeared. So it may be worth exploring—delicately—the possibility that both you and your gifters want out.
My Friends Say I Am Obsessed With “Conspiracy Theories.”
I say I am obsessed with the truth. Honestly, can’t everyone else see the plots, machinations, and treachery that I see?
No, they can’t. But that doesn’t mean that they are blind or that you are a fruitcake. “For society to work, we need the people who are ultra-relaxed, but we also need the worrywarts,” says Howard Forman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The worriers are the conspiracy theorists—folks who won’t rest till they put the pieces together.
Such folks can go off the deep end, of course, and you don’t necessarily want to sit next to one of them on a plane. But they can also go off and discover that the NSA has been listening to our phone calls—an idea that would have sounded completely paranoid before Edward Snowden revealed that it’s true.
Our world is complex. It is filled with things we’ll never understand. Looking for a conspiracy is a way to gain a little sense of power, says David M. Reiss, MD, a psychiatrist in San Diego: It feels like you understand what’s happening, even if others don’t. An explanation, even one that sounds bizarre or frightening, feels more satisfying than no explanation at all.