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Expert: Panic buying fueled by anxiety
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Forsyth County News

The cost of gas is digging into people's wallets, but the shortage has been eating away at their psyche.

Gerald Jenkins, therapist at the Center for Psychotherapy in Cumming, said the problem is associated with anxiety "as it relates to being out of control and in a position of helplessness that is very uncomfortable and frustrating and can even lead to something of panic."

The frustration lies with having to "reschedule their life experiences around the necessity of living with the anxiety of not having any gas."

His patients have expressed concerns of missing appointments and work due to gas shortages.

Mothers, he said, have told him about their fear of not being able to get their children to school and extracurricular activities.

"Life is becoming very, very complicated by the absence of the availability of gas," he said.

There is an internal conflict, said Jenkins, of logic versus reality. One patient said she had an aversion to sitting in a long line waiting for gas, not because of waiting in a line, but because she was burning gas trying to buy more gas.

"It's a remarkable conflict of values for people to just have to sit and consume fuel while they're waiting to be able to get enough gas," he said.

Georgia's gas supply, 85 percent of which comes from Louisiana and Texas refineries, was substantially decreased following back-to-back hurricanes, the second of which struck about three weeks ago, leaving much of that area without power.

Once powered up, refineries still take at least six days to become fully functional, said Randy Bly, spokesman for AAA Auto Club South.

Though the state's supply is increasing as more refineries increase capacity, many stations are still left without fuel, or with limited supplies.

Bly said the reason the problem has escalated is that people rush to fill their tanks, even if they have a half a tank or more.

Jenkins said the rush stems from a sense of urgency, even if people have enough gas to last a few days. The mentality is that they're afraid of not having enough.

"Therefore, if I get an opportunity, I'll seize every opportunity to fill up with gas," he said. "Yet they know that's counterproductive for our society if everybody does that."

The current state of the economy, housing market, job rates and other national pressures, he said, are adding to the problem, making the gas crisis the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

"The total economic picture of our country right now is very ominous for people," he said. "People are expanding their sense of dread about tomorrow, what might happen, and what I would call exponential anxiety in that each level of anxiety regarding each life situation embellishes the previous anxiety.

"It does touch some very, very raw and painful feelings that grow out of our childhood experience of being helpless and or being abandoned ... it's not an easy time."

While people are part of the problem, they also become the solution, calling a friend without gas to let them know where they found some or choosing not to waste fuel or make an extra trip.

Also helping will be 900,000 barrels of crude oil that will be sent from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to two refineries without adequate supplies.

Though it may take some time before Georgia reaps the benefits, the assistance should provide relief while the Gulf Coast refineries are building capacity.

Bly said oil shipments to Georgia likely return to normal by Oct. 13, but to expect substantial relief by Monday.