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What Dementor Attacks Get Right About Depression

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We first learn about the Dementors in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Dementors are arguably the foulest creatures in the entire series. It is said that when they are near, the individuals in the vicinity may feel an overwhelming sense of despair, as if they would never feel happy again, as if things would never be OK again. Dementors drain people of peace, hope and happiness. Their presence might leave an individual feeling cold, numb and empty. 

For those of us who are familiar with the struggles of depression, the descriptions of Dementor attacks might sound all too familiar. While some people experience sadness when going through depression, many people experience numbness or heaviness of emotions during this time. Like Harry Potter, we too might feel frozen during our Dementor attack, so much so, that sometimes we might struggle to get out of bed or have a difficult time leaving the house and completing our tasks. 

Similar to those in the “Harry Potter” series, our own Depression Dementors can sometimes appear “out of nowhere.” Sometimes they might also feast on our worst, most painful memories, forcing us to recall the most excruciating experiences we’ve been through. During these times, it might be difficult to see the light; it might feel impossible to find hope, something to hold on to. When there are many Dementors attacking us all at once, when the feelings of depression are too much to bare, it might be too hard to keep going. We might even collapse, almost wishing for the Dementor’s kiss, just to avoid feeling the excruciating pain of numb emptiness. 

However, as we learn from the “Harry Potter” series, even though we cannot kill Dementors, they can be managed. The series tells us that to protect ourselves against a Dementor attack, we can cast the Patronus Charm, creating a shield between us and the Dementors. In order to cast the Patronus Charm, according to Professor Lupin, we must think of our happiest memory. When Harry first tries to cast it, he thinks of learning to fly. Although our personal achievements might be able to make us feel happy in the moment, they may not be strong enough to cast the Patronus Charm. 

However, remembering a time we spent with our loved ones, or better yet, actually spending time with them, can help us to cast a powerful Patronus Charm, as Harry is ultimately able to do when he thinks of his parents. By connecting with people or activities we love, we might feel more engaged. In these times of meaningful connection, our bodies are likely to release oxytocin, a powerful hormone, which can significantly improve our mental and physical health. This means that spending time engaging in meaningful, heartfelt activities, including spending time with our friends or watching our favorite TV show, can help our body cast its own version of a Patronus Charm, potentially easing our own experience with depression in that moment. And of course, chocolate can sometimes help too. 

Image via Harry Potter Facebook page

Originally published: July 18, 2019
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