Panic buying an anxiety balm: psych expert

·2-min read

Panic buying offers the illusion of control amid upheaval and acts as a balm for feelings of anxiety and uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That's the verdict of a South Australia-based psychology expert as Victoria enters its fourth lockdown and toilet paper again flies off the shelves.

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths on Friday imposed a limit of two packs of toilet paper per person in Victoria as shoppers stock up.

"We have plenty of stock in our supply chain, and this temporary measure will help us to manage demand so that we can return our stores to a fully-stocked position as quickly as possible," Coles said in a statement.

It comes after widespread panic buying across Australia at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020, from toilet paper to pasta and rice.

The behaviour prompted pleas to stop from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Supermarkets have never closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the coronavirus, a respiratory illness, does not cause intestinal upset.

Flinders University psychology senior lecturer Dan Fassnacht, an expert in compulsive buying, said this week that panic buying was also excessive and uncontrolled but prompted fewer feelings of shame or regret.

He said the behaviour stemmed from an attempt to regulate anxiety and was linked to the human tendency towards "herd behaviour".

"Often those who have high levels of intolerance of uncertainty are prone to panic buying," Dr Fassnacht said in a statement.

"While excessive or panic buying may lead to short-term feelings of being in control - reducing anxiety or feelings of uncertainty - this usually doesn't last."

Dr Fassnacht also said a general "fear of missing out" (FOMO) led to panic buying, with empty shelves prompting people to ensure their own supplies.

Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino on Thursday emphasised there was "absolutely no reason" to panic buy goods amid the seven-day lockdown.

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