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Are you panic buying again in the age of omicron? Join the club

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 5:31 PM EST
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Once again, some shelves are bare at groceries stores, causing anxiety and the need for some to have to stock up on food and necessities, whether it be toilet paper or their favorite yogurt.

It hails back to the early days of the pandemic, but this time there is added supply chain issues and inflation concerns.

"Everybody is tired of this. There has to be a way to fix this," Nancy McGuire told WPTV outside of Publix.

Laurah Pastel Shames, a clinical social worker from Miami, noted that what has happened during this prolonged pandemic isn't classic hoarding, which is an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“If it's out of anxiety and fear that when I need this, I won't be able to get it. It's a valid fear, especially when we are kind of used to going to the supermarket and realizing the things that were easily able to be picked up are now a lot more difficult to find," said Shames.

One item that was the subject of panic buying is COVID-19 tests, but that is abating. On Thursday, Woolworths reinstated product limits nationwide as a "precautionary move" amid supply chain constraints.

A May 2020 paper posted by the National Institutes of Health in its library describes panic buying as socially undesirable and a form of herd behavior. Shames said it is hard to point fingers at panic buyers in the time of COVID-19, inflation and supply chain breakdowns.

“I don't know what's irrational right now because the truth is, I don't think anyone knows,” said Shames.

The researchers who wrote the paper on the NIH website found panic buying is influenced by four factors.

The first is a perception of a threat, such as the pandemic or inflation or just the scarcity of products.

The second is the fear of the unknown. People are anxious that the pandemic will never end and that there will be just one burden after another put in their lives during these trying times.

The third is coping behavior, which is where panic buying is an avenue to relieve anxiety. It gives people some sense of control where they feel powerless.

And finally, there are psychological factors. This could be social media where a person's network is panicking about the scarcity of items or it could just be seeing someone stocking up on toilet paper at the grocery store.

"Especially in the media or on the news, when you're seeing, these images of supermarkets and the shelves are empty and you're thinking, 'Oh, goodness, next time I go, I need to do that, too,'" Shames said. "When in reality, it might just have been that so many people were kind of reacting the same way."

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