"Open your gift!" some folks will say upon immediately presenting you with a brightly wrapped box. Some of us are happy to oblige, ripping off the paper with an exuberance usually reserved for cheerleader movies. Others, however, experience anxiety when presented with a present. "What if I won't like it?" they think, wondering if they'll have to fake some enthusiasm. "What if it's embarrassing? What if I already have it?" Such internalized questions can seriously stress a person out, even if it isn't obvious to the excited gift-giver.
Though the concept might seem foreign to some, it's actually quite common and understandable. "[Gift-giving is] a way of showing how we feel about one another. An actual tangible gesture," explains Dr. Ben Michaelis, New York City-based clinical psychologist. "So it makes good sense that this is a highly charged event."
When you add on the layer of a public opening, he notes, there is some level of "performance" required. "There's an expectation that you're going to say, 'Oh I love it, it's great, it's perfect!' Some people are very sensitive to that."