Fear vs. fact: The psychology behind the coronavirus outbreak

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The coronavirus outbreak is creating fear and panic among some, but is it warranted?

With all the talk and media coverage of the coronavirus, it's no wonder people want to take all precautions possible. Local school districts are closing, colleges are canceling classes, and Italy has put sports at a complete halt.

We've seen empty store shelves and heard the stories of people stockpiling everything from toilet paper to soap. But doctors are reminding people there is a fine line between preparation and panic.

SCHOOL CLOSURES: Get the list of local school closures here

"So this is psychology. When people hear bad news, there are different types of personalities," says Dr. Aaron Glatt, of Mount Siani South Nassau.

Glatt says some people are more calm in general and are able to listen to the news and intellectually take it in.

MORE: Coronavirus details from the CDC

"They can say, this is what I need to do, these are the personal risks for me right now, and I understand I need to be vigilant. I need to follow the guidelines and I'll be fine, my family will be fine," says Glatt.

But Glatt says some others hear the same message and their hearts begin to race and find additional reasons to panic.

"They get very nervous and they look on the internet that tells them we're all going to die," says Glatt. "And you better stock up on the following list of 100 million products. And unfortunately their personalities aren't as calm, and they tend to rush out and get, unfortunately, hysterical."

GET THE FACTS: What you need to know about coronavirus

Licensed clinical social worker Jennifer Bohr-Cuevas says the stockpiling of things that may seem unnecessary is a way for people to feel some control over a situation that is totally out of their control. She adds that people are getting mixed messages -- on one hand health officials say things are under control, but on the other they admit there is still a lot they don't know.

"People don't do well with mixed messages," says Bohr-Ceuvas. "People I think by their nature do well with a black-and-white answer and then they can plan."

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