A "panic" in a theatre is the result of some fright that induces many people to lose their heads, and rush frantically to the exits to escape, having no regard for the weak and helpless or the wiser counsels of the saner-minded, who would, perhaps, accomplish the same escape from the impending danger by slower and more systematic methods. At such times, much unnecessary suffering results, caused by the very human desire of self-preservation.

In a "stock exchange panic," or "money panic," or whatever the case may be, the procedure and results in a financial way are about the same. People sell who need not have done so; sales are made which afterwards prove to have been needless; unnecessary losses result; the large majority try to do the same thing at once. There are so many more sellers than buyers - so many more people than theatre exits - that securities are sold at any prices obtainable. Failures result; prices drop to an unnatural level; all confidence is lost, and financial self-preservation is the predominating factor.

Panics are usually preceded by a period of over-speculation, inflation and straining of credit.