Guilt Gift — (Meaning and Examples)

guilt gift meaning and the anxiety that is written by find it health experts

Guilt gift is a term that isn’t widely discussed but impacts many people. Giving gifts or receiving gifts can be a scary experience and cause a lot of anxiety for some of us. 

In this article, members of the research team at FinditHealth want to shed light on different aspects of guilt gifts and give tips on how to deal with gift-giving and gift-receiving anxiety.

guilt gift meaning and the anxiety that is written by find it health experts

Guilt Gift Meaning


The majority of us grew up believing, or being told, that it is always better to give than receive. By providing, we are contributing to the world, sharing love and kindness with others, and honoring their needs and feelings.

Giving gifts can be a beautiful thing, but sometimes it is done with not the best intentions.

It is equally as hard to accept gifts as the receiver, especially when it’s an unexpected gift.

Gifting to others has been around for a very long time. Research shows that cavemen used to give presents like unique rocks or animal teeth to strengthen social connections and show their appreciation to others. As the years passed and society evolved, these gifts became more elaborate, decorative, and even expensive gifts.

Guilt gifts refer to items given to someone out of the blue which holds significant sentimental meaning to the receiver. It could be cash, jewelry, gift cards, or anything you know the receiver will love.

It can be called a guilt gift because sometimes it is given when you think you have caused harm to someone, or the receiver can feel like they didn’t deserve the gift and are unsure what to say. Guilt gifts can also be used when you feel like you didn’t give a good enough gift. 

Gift Receiving Anxiety


Separation anxiety is categorized as the fear of being separated from a loved one who is a source of safety and connection.

Culture shows us that we should feel grateful when we receive a gift and are also expected to give something in return. The fact that we are conditioned to feel like we owe something to someone leaves us with a feeling of gift guilt or gift-receiving anxiety. While you shouldn’t feel bad in this situation, most of us feel obliged to reciprocate the gift because we think that we now owe the person.

If you are someone who experiences gift-receiving anxiety, it could be helpful to look at your self-worth or figure out why you feel the need to give someone a gift in return. It is perfectly acceptable to accept a gift and not give something in return, but this can be hard for some of us to struggle with. Generally, gift-receiving anxiety occurs from the three main themes discussed below. 

You Do Not Have A Gift For That Person

The most common kind of gift-receiving anxiety stems from when someone gives you something, but you have nothing for them and do not plan on buying a gift for that person.

An example is when someone gives you something at work, and you barely know the person, or it was very unexpected. While it’s easy to rectify, you can get a gift later to give to the person, but this can still cause anxiety. We think the most important thing to work on with this theme is accepting the present without needing to return the favor. 

You Do Not Need Or Like The Gift

Another type of gift-receiving anxiety we experience comes from receiving a gift we do not need or even like. This could be clothes that do not fit or even a gift card to a place you do not visit. This can be challenging. You can not appreciate the gift because you don’t know what to do with it! This can lead to feelings of guilt for not liking or using a gift.

We would implore you here to work on gratitude at the moment and then later recognize that you can always donate the gift so someone else can enjoy it. This can also be done to gifts that you feel are too large or too much for you to accept. Sometimes we receive something very grand that we weren’t expecting, and while it is perfectly fine to accept and keep it, it causes more stress in your life; we would suggest donating. 

Social Connection

Another reason some people will experience gift-receiving anxiety is that receiving creates a moment of connection that is very vulnerable for some of us. Many of us fear intimacy, so receiving a gift pushes our boundaries to open up and get to know the person who gives us a gift. It’s also why so many of us prefer to give than receive a gift because it gives you control over how close you are to someone. Receiving a gift can be an excellent opportunity to let go of control and welcome a more vulnerable part of yourself.

Feelings When You Receive A Gift


There are numerous feelings one can have when one receives a gift. First, you could experience happiness and joy for thinking someone took the time to buy you a gift. It could be something that excites you, or you could be happy that this person is thinking of you, and it’s now an opportunity to get to know them better.

On the other hand, receiving gifts can also lead to guilt.

Guilt manifests itself in many ways throughout the body. 

Physical symptoms include insomnia, stomach pain, tight muscles, and headaches. Emotionally you could be experiencing stress and anxiety because you are unsure what to do in the situation. The good news is these symptoms should quickly resolve when you confront the issue of guilt and what is causing you to experience this feeling. If it gets too much to handle, we encourage you to seek a licensed therapist. 

Gift Giving Anxiety


Gift-giving anxiety is another phenomenon that most of us will experience at some point in life.

Anxiety from gift gifting can stem from a variety of issues. 

Trying To Find The Perfect Gift

Gift-giving anxiety mainly stems from the pressure we give ourselves to find the perfect gift for someone. The right gift will strengthen your relationship with this person and improve everything. It’s almost like you think giving the wrong gift will be embarrassing, and you will be judged for it. We believe this stems from worrying so much about what others think of us, and we are trying to make the right impression.

We encourage you to take the feelings aside and work on giving gifts because you genuinely want to and are not concerned about what the gift will do to your image. Gifts should be an excellent way to show love to friends, family, and romantic partners; honestly, they will most likely be happy that you are thinking of them. 

Feel Like You Have To

Another theme of why we experience gift-giving anxiety is when we feel obliged to give a gift to someone. This could be in returning the favor or just because you think the situation calls for it.  We think the best thing to do here is to take a step back and honestly consider why you give a gift.

While society has conditioned us this way, just because someone gives you a gift does not mean you have to return the favor. When giving gifts, do it because you want to, not because you feel obliged and pressured. Giving gifts should make you feel good.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why do I feel bad when someone spends money on me?

We often feel bad when someone spends money on us because it was unexpected and something we did not plan for at the moment. This can also stem from not having money to return the favor or not knowing what to buy the other person. 

What is a guilt gift?

A guilt gift is gifted to someone out of the blue with sentimental meaning to the receiver. It could be cash, gift cards, jewelry, or anything that holds particular value to someone.  

Do gifts express guilt?

Gifts can carry the emotion of guilt. This is because we are conditioned as a society to give something in return when we receive a gift. We feel guilt when we do not give a gift back to someone.

Does a narcissist give gifts?

Research shows that narcissists will give gifts to maintain control in the relationship. A narcissist will provide gifts to stay in your good graces and for you to continue wanting to be around them. 

Why do people feel guilty about receiving gifts?

People feel guilty when receiving gifts because they can be unexpected or something you do not want or need. Receiving gifts can also make someone feel guilty because it is a moment of connection, which is a vulnerable moment for some.

Conclusion – Research by Findithealth.com

find it health logo horizontal new

With all being said and done, it is typically more accessible to give gifts than receive, but it is essential to work on both. 

Members of FinditHealth encourage you to embrace and accept the feelings that come with you giving or receiving a gift. Instead of instantly jumping to guilt or feeling like you have to return the favor, bring your attention to the social connection and caring involved in the process. Being mindful allows you to be more present and calm at the moment and not second guess any intentions.

Scroll to Top