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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

Spoon Theory: Does It Make Sense Or Is It Bogus?

Spoon theory is a metaphor used to describe how a person feels the pain when suffering from a chronic illness. In this theory, a spoon is a unit of energy. Let’s learn more about it!

Nobody can imagine the day to day lives of people suffering from chronic illness. Even if you have a family member or a best friend who is suffering from chronic illness, it is practically difficult to understand their pain and act accordingly.

Healthy people have enormous and unlimited amounts of energy and they can do what they wish. But people who suffer from chronic illness cannot do what they wish. They find it difficult even to complete the most essential tasks of the day.

What Is Spoon Theory?

Spoon theory, illness

Person with chronic illness, Credits: pixabay

To explain the energy levels of people suffering from chronic illness, Christine Miserandino in 2003 proposed spoon theory. Miserandino had lupus and she found it very difficult to explain how she suffered physically and mentally, because of lupus (an autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain).

So she put forth the “Spoon Theory”. She illustrated her point by laying out the spoons in a diner and described that each spoon was energy for a task throughout the day.

Miserandino took away a spoon for every single task: showering, getting dressed with painful joints, standing on a train. When the spoons were gone, it meant they are running out of energy.

According to Miserandino, if a person is healthy, they own an unlimited amount of spoons and they can accomplish their things easily. And people,with chronic illness, have a limited number of spoons and have to manage their spoons wisely.

Spoon theory can be applied to mental health as well. People suffering from depression find it difficult to wake up and complete their daily tasks.

So spoon theory is an easy way to communicate your friends on how many spoons you have in a day, and how well you are managing. If you are deprived of energy, seek professional help.

Is “Spoon Theory” Accepted?

Though spoon theory is not developed on the type of illness and symptoms of the disease, it is an amazing tool to describe how life is for people suffering from chronic illness. People suffering from chronic illness identify themselves as a “spoonie”.

Dawn Gibson identifies her as a spoonie, as he lives with spondylitis, food allergies, and learning difficulties. In 2013, she created a Twitter chat called SpoonieChat (Wednesday nights from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Eastern time). During this chat, people share their experiences as Spoonies.

So the advent opened up a platform for people suffering from chronic illness to describe their sufferings, emotions, and their difficulties during the day to day activities. People who care for the spoonies also share their experiences.

Where Is “Spoon Theory” Applied?

Spoon theory is most commonly used to describe the autoimmune disease and mental health disorders like

  1. Lupus

  2. Multiple sclerosis (MS)

  3. Fibromyalgia

  4. Arthritis

  5. Depression

  6. Anxiety

  7. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  8. Endometriosis

  9. Autism

  10. Leukemia

  11. Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)

Spoons to describe the energy

Different spoons, Credits: pixabay

The following is an example of how people use their spoons throughout the day:

  1. Getting out of bed (1 spoon)

  2. Bath time (1 spoon)

  3. Dressing (1 spoon)

  4. Cooking breakfast (2 spoons)

  5. Commute (3 spoons)

  6. Task completion at work or school (3 spoons)

This is simply an example. The number of spoons a person requires for each activity may vary depending on their level of illness.


Spoon theory is a way for people suffering from chronic illness to describe their energy levels. Since it has practical implications, this theory makes sense and cannot be considered “bogus”.

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