– Spoons Metaphor


I often see people online refer to themselves as “spoonies” or as “not having enough spoons”, and I have no idea what this means. Can someone explain??

In: 25

It’s a metaphor for disability: spoons are like currency in this scenario, or ‘mana’; it’s an expression that people with disabilities often have a very limited amount of energy reserves that they expend on completing tasks, e.g. getting up and dressed, travelling, socialising, etc. Unlike those who are able bodied and do not suffer with chronic illness, disabled folks often cannot ‘push through’ feeling worn out to complete more tasks, and their energy levels day to day can vary a lot (so they don’t always start out with the same number of ‘spoons’ each day to spend on activities)

It represents an intangible resource for doing things. It started out as a way for someone with chronic illness to explain what they felt up to doing in a day. It spread to the chronic illness community and has since drifted into the mainstream.

It’s a good way to explain how certain activities might require little physical energy, but enough mental energy that someone can only handle so many mental tasks, which isn’t always apparent. Like talking on the phone takes little physical energy. But depending on who you’re talking to it could be incredibly draining, like being on the phone with insurance about procedures.


Looks like I need to start saving my spoons for more important things, like binge-watching Netflix.

The spoon theory refers to an article written back in the early 2000’s that used the somewhat whimsical spoon based metaphor for the energy we have available to do daily tasks.

The idea is that we start out each day with a limited amount of spoons, and everything we choose to do during the course of that day requires us to give up/hand over some of those spoons – many people have large spoon supplies available and can freely spend them doing activities, but many of us have a much more limited supply available to use and need to ration how we use them.

As an alternative you could equally reference the mana/energy systems used in many games, having to spend money, fuel or any other resource – the spoon theory was just a very good description of this idea, and whimsical enough to stick in the memories of a lot of people.

So when someone says they don’t have enough spoons left over, what they are meaning is that they are too tired (either physically or mentally) and need a break.