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'When we think there will be a scarcity of products - that anxiety just rockets up' | Psychotherapist explains why people panic buy, hoard supplies

Why do people do this? The short answer: it's a way to feel more in control.

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a mad dash to buy all of the toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and other essentials - blowing up supply chains and making it tough for the rest of us.

Well, to some extent, it's happening again. Across the Triad, you may see empty shelves. WFMY News 2 crews went to numerous stores, noticing a shortage of toilet paper, papers towels, and more. 

RELATED: Empty shelves strike again across Triad stores, but don't worry!

It can be really frustrating to see, so we asked Dr. Nannette Funderburk, a Greensboro psychotherapist, about why people panic buy. 

"There has been research already done on this, empirical research that is out there where experiments have been done to say - when there is this crisis or even the perception of a crisis, and we think that there will be a scarcity of products, that anxiety just rockets up," she said. 

Dr. Funderburk said, while these empty shelves can be disheartening, especially if you need these supplies, it's really a reaction to a lack of control. 

"If the thought is, I might be sick or a loved one might be sick, and we might not have what we need - that's really not gonna be good. So let me go and get whatever it is that I think I need," she explained, "That makes us feel a little bit more in control of the situation again."

Dr. Funderburk believes there's a social aspect as well. Seeing an almost empty shelf might make you think you must need it, too... even if you don't.

Chains like Harris Teeter report that they're ahead of the game, the second time around, stocking up resources in warehouses and putting restrictions on certain items so as not to run out. 

"It's just a difficult time right and stress levels are high, so the more that we can put empathy and kindness and consideration of others...the more we can put that out there, but better the world will be," Dr. Funderburk said.