Dementors: A metaphor for depression

In this blog we will discuss Dementors in the Harry Potter books and how it represents depression.

Dementors: A metaphor for depression

Dementors in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is a very obvious nod towards depression, specifically the overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness when one is in their presence. 

The first appearance of these wraithlike beings who are basically described as soul suckers is mentioned in the second book; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets but we see that their first appearance came in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book. 

According to the books, Dementors are hooded humanoid figures who have the ability to fly and are more or less able to feed on human happiness and happy memories. 

According to how they are portrayed in the book and in the movies, the dementors can basically force feelings of dread, despair, and depression through what is known as a Dementor’s Kiss which could eventually suck out the soul of a person leaving them in a vegetative state which almost happens to Harry’s Godfather Sirius. 

We consider the inspiration for Dementors, from her interviews we know that J.K Rowling created it out of her own experiences with depression. 

Before J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, she was diagnosed with clinical depression as well as the loss of her mother, a failed marriage, unemployment, and the struggles of being a single mother. 

It was at a time when she viewed herself as a failure, she was plagued by depression and suicidal ideation. As she wrote her Harry Potter books she has credited that the dementors in the series are a metaphor for her own experiences of depression. 

Dementors have the ability to bring about feelings of hopelessness, despair, immense sadness, and self-hatred in those that come across them. 

They also have the ability to take away the light and happiness in the life of an individual through a kiss much like how depression can take away all meaninging and positive feelings in one’s life. 

The portrayal of dementors in the movie and the books is powerful and most of the characters encounters with the dementors is very similar to how one would experience when they are faced with an episode of depression. 

Even the protection from the dementors kiss or Patronus Charm is much akin to positive energy through reminding oneself of hope, love, support, and happy memories which is very much in line with intentionally reflecting on positives in one’s life to deal with depression. 

Even the “Cure” to a dementor’s kiss is by eating chocolate which is a metaphor for comfort eating of something sweet as a way to fill the void and coldness that dememorts leave in their wake much like some people tend to do when they are depressed- an increase in appetite and subsequent comfort eating. 

The characterisation of demeter’s in the harry potter movies and the books is a very obvious portrayal of what being in a depressive episode is like and most of what people that comes fact to face with one experiences is very similar to what people with depression struggle with which is a very strong testament to the creativity and imagination of the author. 

What is depression?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a leading publication used for diagnosis of mental disorders by mental health professionals, Major depressive disorder or depression is a serious mood disorder.

Depression is marked by the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

Depression symptoms also include extremely low mood and fatigue and is often accompanied by thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness which can lead to suicidal ideation and even attempts. 

Depression related symptoms such as inability to focus, lack of energy, and hopelessness can impact a person’s ability to work and meet the demands of their daily lives. 

People with depression often struggle with low self esteem and self worth which can cause them to negatively assess themselves. They may fear rejection and abandonment from other people which may cause them to isolate themselves in a bid to protect themselves.

This social withdrawal can make it difficult for them to maintain social commitments and relationships as they might choose to push people away especially when they do not have the skills to communicate and manage their emotions and thoughts. 

While these are some of the ways depression impacts a person, the disorder itself can cause the quality of life of people who have it to drastically decrease and in extreme cases, if the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to suicide attempts and death. 

How to cope and manage if you have depression?

Here are a few things you can do to cope with depression:

Seek professional help

If you have not been diagnosed, do not stick to self diagnosis based on your symptoms. Seek out professional consultations starting with your GP who can refer you to specialists in the field. 

There may be different medications- some which might work for you while others that might not help you. 

Taking time to find a doctor who can help you with estimating the right dosage of medication and the right medical treatment can make the quality of your journey to recovery drastically different. 

Reduce stress

If it’s a job that is causing you immense stress, maybe it is time to consider taking a leave of absence. Or it could be your own family environment that is causing your symptoms to flare up- consider moving out if your financial situation persists. 

The intent here is to reduce or remove the things in your life that add stress. If it is a certain relationship, taking the time to set boundaries or communicate that you are taking time out can be one way. 

By reducing stressors, the thought of waking up and facing your day may seem a little less daunting, you might even look forward to it. 

Learn and apply coping skills

If you are depressed, you can learn coping skills and techniques and apply them at least once a day when experiencing depression. 

This can be learning how to tackle your anxieties and negative moods by regulating your breathing and engaging in deep breathing techniques. 

You can also try grounding techniques to help you cope with spiralling down a negative rumination. Make goals for each day and let your goals be small, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound, 

Make plans for your day that suit your pace- if today is especially difficult, make a step by step plan from your bed to the bathroom in the mornings. Reward yourself when you succeed and be kind when you slip up. Remind yourself that you are learning. 


Engaging in exercise, even if it is only a 15 minute stretch can be a wonderful step towards loving yourself and caring for yourself. 

You can opt for joining the gym however, if this is too much you can consider yoga or pilates that you can start gradually; you can also go for walks or runs alone or with your loved ones. 

Getting out of your house and doing something that allows you to get your blood pumping in itself can be a great way of self care. 

Eat a healthy diet

Diet is an important aspect of overall health and is an important component of maintaining a positive state of mental health. 

There has been plenty of research studies that have been linked to what we eat and higher risks of depression. Research finds that well balanced meals with adequate intake of vegetables, fruits, grain, and healthy fats are related to lower risks of depression.

Sleep well

Take time to improve your sleep hygiene. Research has found that sleep disorders are also a core symptom of depression. Irregular sleep and not enough sleep can make your healing process difficult and can even heighten the risk of relapse. 

Some of the things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene are

  • Avoid substances that impact your sleep, this includes caffeine. 
  • Exercise daily
  • Avoid heavy dinners
  • Change your sleeping environment to be more soothing and sleep inducing. 
  • Make changes in your pre-sleep routine such as taking relaxing baths before sleep, avoiding gadgets two hours before sleeping time.

Connect with loved ones

Reaching out to people who love you and letting them know that you are having a hard time now, can bring you closer to people who truly love and care for you.

These are positive relationships we want and need around you as you begin your journey to recovery. Positive relationships help you discover joys and meaning to your life. 

Make plans to meet them for lunch, or go for a walk with them. Make sure you make clear what you can and cannot do and agree on something that both you and them can enjoy. 

You can also take the step to connect with other people who are coping with depression through group therapy or support groups.

Oftentimes, listening to other people’s successes can instil hope, it also gives you the opportunity to learn new perspectives of living and life along with new techniques to cope.


In this blog we have discussed Dementors in the Harry Potter books and how it represents depression.

FAQ related to Dementors: A metaphor for depression

Do Dementors represent depression?

Yes, Dementors in the Harry Potter series are a metaphor for depression, specifically the overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness when one is in their presence.

What are the effects of Dementors?

According to how they are portrayed in the book and in the movies, the dementors can basically force feelings of dread, despair, and depression through what is known as a Dementor’s Kiss which could eventually suck out the soul of a person leaving them in a vegetative state which almost happens to Harry’s Godfather Sirius. 


Harry Potter: The Real Meaning Behind The Dementors. Screen Rant. Retrieved on 30th April 2022.

Depression and Dementors: the magic of Harry Potter and grief. Medium. Retrieved on 30th April 2022.

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