The Reason You May Be Afraid Of Using Chopsticks

When you go out on the town to dine at an Asian restaurant, you are typically offered a choice of utensils. To use chopsticks or not to use chopsticks? That is the question. The fork and spoon provide a comforting blanket of familiarity, but the chopsticks seem like the more appropriate choice for the occasion. Chopsticks can even help maximize fridge space, making them useful tools to keep on hand.

For anyone not accustomed to using them, chopsticks can sometimes present more of an obstacle to eating than serving as a vehicle to transport food to your stomach. After all, you may have experienced some fumbling and fiddling as you clumsily attempt to hold them correctly and manage sensible bites. It's enough to make you glance nervously around the room to see if anyone is watching you struggle to deliver your pad Thai from plate to mouth.

There's no need to feel inadequate, though, because you're definitely not alone. A 2014 U.S. survey revealed that a minuscule 4% of Americans consider themselves "experts" at using chopsticks, while 67% of respondents said they were either "not very good," "terrible," or had "never even tried" chopsticks. Plus, the fear of chopsticks is a real thing.

Using chopsticks can trigger extreme anxiety in some people

There is a real fear called consecotaleophobia, which is the irrational fear of chopsticks, per Eat This, Not That!. This phobia is listed as an anxiety disorder in the "DSM-V" ("Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders"). This condition causes a person to feel extremely anxious when around chopsticks.

When someone has consecotaleophobia, even just thinking about chopsticks can trigger anxiety (via the Psychiatric Times). In extreme cases, a fear of chopsticks can even escalate to an individual experiencing panic attacks. Another consequence of suffering from consecotaleophobia is that it may cause a person to avoid chopsticks altogether or even a place or thing that might evoke thoughts of chopsticks. They may skip out on restaurants that carry chopsticks and, naturally, keep them out of their home.

Other common symptoms and signs include anxiety when holding or seeing chopsticks, as well as muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating. The cause of consecotaleophobia is currently unknown, though the Psychiatric Times posits that genetics and one's environment might be contributing factors.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.