Sat, Mar 03, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Panic buying is ‘herd behavior,’ leading to hoarding, doctor says

By Lin Hui-chin and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A New Taipei City-based psychiatrist said recent panic purchases of toilet paper is “herd behavior,” adding that excessive feelings of insecurity can lead to hoarding.

Retailers in Taiwan, including hypermarkets, on Feb. 24 said that toilet paper suppliers told them that product prices would increase by between 10 and 30 percent from the middle of this month due to a spike in pulp prices in the international market.

The announcement triggered panic buying of toilet paper by consumers.

Psychiatrist Yang Tsung-tsai (楊聰財) said that when news about a potential price increase is released, a “leader” engages in stockpiling behavior.

Fearing losses if they do not do the same, others follow, Yang said, adding that people might not think about their realistic needs.

With the rise of social media, this type of phenomenon might be more obvious and spread more easily, he said.

When herd behavior reaches a certain point, groups of people emerge who are looking out for themselves rather than the social unit, Yang said.

These people are likely to take toilet paper home from restaurants, public bathrooms and other places because they are greedy and opportunistic, he said, adding that in more serious cases, a hoarding disorder can develop.

Perhaps due to emotional issues, an inability to think clearly or feelings of insecurity, people who hoard must engage in the behavior to feel mentally stable, he said.

Yang said he once treated an elderly man who had developed a hoarding habit because he was constantly worried that he would not have enough everyday supplies.

He had more than a lifetime’s supply of toilet paper, shampoo and underwear, Yang said.

People must think independently and behave rationally when it comes to consumption, he said, adding that people should evaluate what is the best purchasing behavior for themselves rather than blindly following others.

If a person’s hoarding has started to affect their normal functioning in everyday life, they should seek professional help and treatment, he added.

Premier William Lai (賴清德) on Tuesday said there is no need for concern about domestic toilet paper supplies and urged the public not to stockpile toilet paper.

Additional reporting by Cheng Hung-ta

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