Preparation vs panic-buying: the psychology of over-buying

Posted at 9:00 PM, Apr 02, 2020

(NBC News) Crammed shopping carts and store shelves stripped bare continue to be a common sight, weeks into the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts say while it's good to be prepared, we should be aware of panic buying.

Dr. Stephanie Gorka studies and treats anxiety, and says panic buying is rooted in fear and uncertainty.

"People are buying and trying to take action in a way to get back control, so they'll feel a sense of relief," she explains.

Biology can play a role too. Some brains are wired to react more strongly to stress and uncertainty.

"For them, it puts everything in overdrive," Dr. Gorka says. "They are extra motivated to relieve and escape their distress."

In addition to possibly causing a strain on supply, panic buying doesn't work.

"What people are experiencing is 'my pantry is full, my shelves are stocked but I still feel this high level of anxiety./ And now what?” Dr. Gorka says.

She suggests people monitor their anxiety.

- Are you obsessing over shopping lists?

- Worrying so much that you're not a present partner or parent?

If limiting news and social media along with relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing don't help, it may be time to try a telehealth session with a mental health provider.

You should also recognize that anxiety during times like these is normal, but also manageable.

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