From trying your best to hold back your coughs and sneezes in public transports and hunting for sanitizers and surgical masks from shop to shop, the last few weeks have been exhausting for some and panic inducing for others. In Singapore, people have resorted to purchasing large quantities of Maggi noodles and other provisions including toilet paper (Goh, 2020) while in the United States, masks have been sold out in pharmacies (McNeil, 2020).  The hoarding of items is known as panic buying (Whitehead, 2020).


Why Do People “Panic Buy”?

People have an innate desire to be in control. With a virus outbreak, there are many details that are unknown, and this affects daily lives causing people to work from home and for students to stay at home (Whitehead, 2020). This increases the chance for groupthink to occur where one person’s actions and thoughts cause a domino effect. When we notice a person hoarding provisions, we assume we may not be able to purchase them in the next few weeks. Hence, we resort to hoarding to look out for ourselves.


The Science Behind Panic Buying

When people are faced with something that is unknown and they have no control over it, they feel threatened. When people feel threatened, a specific part of your brain called the amygdala is activated. The amygdala is responsible for emotions, specifically fear. When the amygdala is overstimulated, it causes the frontal lobe of the brain, that is responsible for rational thinking, to shut off (Whitehead, 2020). As a result, the body goes into a fight or flight mode that ensures we look out for ourselves (Goh, 2020).


What Do We Do Then?

Since being in a panic mode causes you to make irrational decisions, there are a few things you could do to make yourself feel calmer. Start with breathing exercises. When you breathe slowly, you are not giving thoughts that induce fear in you to be taken as facts. Once you are calm, the rational part of your brain is activated, and you will be able to view the situation in an objective manner.

If you already took 10 packets of toilet paper in your trolley, you will then be able to think about the number of toilet papers you have back at home and decide on how many you need for the coming month. This thought process will prevent you from hoarding (Whitehead, 2020). 

We should also view ourselves as a society instead of individuals. Hoarding increases hostility in a society because it causes inconvenience to others (Goh, 2020). Being able to respect other people’s needs is important in times like this.


Singapore has faced similar situations before and we have overcome it. This is a challenging time, but, as a society we will be able to get through it together. We need to think as a society instead of being individualistic in our actions. While it is easy to experience panic because of the news we read or the messages that come to our phones about the virus, we are also able to take action to calm ourselves, so we can make rational decisions that protect our families and also other people. Before taking an action, ask yourself if you feel fear or are you calm about the decision you made. Let’s think as one nation and help each other during this period.



  • Goh, T. (2020). Coronavirus: Psychological society lists 7 ways to manage panic following food, grocery buying sprees. Retrieved from
  • Mcneil, D. (2020). Mask Hoarders May Raise Risk of a Coronavirus Outbreak in the U.S. Retrieved from
  • Whitehead, K. (2020). Secretive South Korean sect held meetings in China’s epidemic epicentre. Retrieved from