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Where has all the toilet paper gone?

Experts say in a crisis we turn to what comforts us. Sometimes, that is as simple as a wipe.

WASHINGTON — Since the coronavirus outbreak started in the United States, grocery stores shelves where Charmin used to sit are now barren. Reports across the country show people overbuying toilet paper.

It begs the obvious question: Why do people hoard toilet paper?

"The uncertainty has taken its toll," psychologist Dr. Mary Alvord explained.

Alvord is an expert in cognitive behavioral therapy. She believes that in a crisis uncertainty leads to what she calls "catastrophizing."

"The brain is well-equipped to handle a certain amount of anxiety, but then the false alarms, which is a term we use is when the brain goes into overdrive,” she said.

Normally, we see the false alarms in weather events in the DMV. People flock to the grocery store in droves and we see a run on milk and bread.

But during the coronavirus outbreak consumers stripped the shelves of the usual suspects and some new ones: cleaning supplies and toilet paper.

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Alvord said those items, especially toilet paper, represent a comfort in a crisis.

"We all need to go to the bathroom. That’s comforting for us to know that we can do it," Alvord said.

Even though we are several weeks into the crisis that has not stop the run on toilet paper. The once flush shelves remain bare.

According to Alvord, it is going to take people coming together to not only calm anxieties but remember to only take what you need. Even if it is a comfort product, like toilet paper.

"I just hope people can reach out to friends neighbors, and their support systems in this time and know that we are all in this together," Alvord said.

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