NTBR (Need to be Right) in Recovery by Angela Rieck


I suffer from NTBR. This syndrome has hurt my career, caused problems with friends and family and resulted in a lot of embarrassment. While I am in recovery, I have learned that there is no cure, instead, I must remain committed to a lifelong process of healing.

Yes, I suffer from the “Need to be Right” (NTBR). (And if you don’t agree with these initials, chances are that you are a fellow sufferer.) I do not suffer alone, on the Eastern Shore and within my own family, I have found a haven for similarly infected people. I have been a part of, or witnessed, heated arguments about the pronunciation of a name, the best year for crabs, the best football team, the greatest game ever played, politics, etc.

The field of psychology has been slow to recognize this debilitating disorder and it is not included in the DSM 5. While I am sure that you can identify fellow sufferers, you might wonder if you, too, are afflicted by this syndrome. Since this disease is not yet recognized, I have taken it upon myself to list some questions that may help you discern if you are a fellow sufferer.

Do you feel a need to correct people who are obviously mistaken?

If you are found to be wrong, do you (a) storm away or (b) offer a reason for your error?

Do you find a need to interject into other people’s conversations, to inform them of their errors?

Are you exasperated that others don’t recognize the correctness of your political positions?

If you answer yes to any of these, you, too might be suffering from this malady.
Being a trained psychologist, I have begun to contemplate the causes of this disease. Is it nature or nurture? To answer this question, I reflect back on my own childhood (N=1).

Growing up on the Eastern Shore, I recall my Tantes (aunt, in German) were strong women with equally strong opinions. One Tante was an excellent cook who notoriously omitted ingredients when sharing a recipe.

I remember one incident where a Tante called to wish my father a happy birthday. I was a college student, and the manifestations of the syndrome were beginning. I thanked her and let her know that my father’s birthday was actually the next day. I kindly offered to give him the message in time for his birthday. This is the dialog that ensued.

“No, his birthday is today.” Tante Clara huffed.

“Well, I guess that we have been celebrating the wrong day for all of these years,” I replied smiling to myself.

“Well, you sure have. Young lady, you put your mother on the phone, I want to tell her what a rude and conceited daughter she raised.”

I cupped the receiver and called, “Mom, it’s for you.”

I guess that I never really had a chance.

Angela Rieck was born and raised on a farm in Caroline County. After receiving her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland, she worked as a scientist at Bell Laboratories and held management jobs at AT&T, HP, and Medco. Angela is also a wife, mother and an active volunteer serving on the Talbot County School Board for 13 years and fostering and rehabilitating over 200 dogs. After the death of her husband, Dr. Rieck returned to the Eastern Shore to be with her siblings. With a daughter living and works in New York City, she and her dogs now split their time between Talbot County and Key West, FL.

Letters to Editor

  1. Angela

    Thank you so much for helping us NTBR’s come out of the closet. The knowledge that one is not alone suffering this disturbing syndrome can be comforting and may even assist in recovery.

    I’ve been recovering for sixty-five years. I became symptomatic in adolescence. I began having an answer for every question anyone asked, and even answers for the one’s nobody was asking.
    When I became a clergyman, at first, I was like a kid in candy store; I mean, like, if you know chapter and verse in the big book, and god’s your enforcer, nobody contradicts you. My profession was the best enabler any NTBR could ever pray for.

    I first knew I was in trouble when I had no friends left, my last acquaintance wouldn’t answer my calls and the pews were empty Sunday morning. I went to therapy. She suggested that I might like politics better than ministry.

    That scared me witless. I knew I’d hit bottom. I got in a program. Now I’m better. You say you don’t believe me? What’s your problem?

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