Harry Potter and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: Muggle Disorders in the Wizarding World


  • Louise M. Freeman Mary Baldwin College




J.K. Rowling has created a wizarding world almost entirely devoid of mental health issues and treatment. Nonetheless, Harry Potter offers four clear representations of Muggle psychiatric disorders that match the official diagnostic criteria. The most obvious is dementor-induced depression and the ability of both chocolate and the Patronus Charm to neutralize their effects. Rowling shows familiarity with both the published symptoms of clinical depression and its treatment. The Patronus Charm, with its reliance on substituting positive memories for distressing ones, resembles cognitive behavior therapy, a treatment for depression Rowling herself received. The happy memories Harry uses to summon his Patronus are those of successful escapes and his social support network, both factors known to mitigate depression. Additionally, the incapacitation of Frank and Alice Longbottom resembles advanced dementia of Alzheimer’s type; their son Neville shows behavioral traits that might be expected both in the son of an Alzheimer’s patient and in a boy raised by a grandmother. Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody’s name and actions suggest he is a prototype of post-traumatic stress disorder, while Winky the house-elf embodies Stockholm syndrome. The sympathetic portrayal of characters with psychological disorders may enhance moral development and promote understanding of mental illness.

Author Biography

Louise M. Freeman, Mary Baldwin College

Professor of Psychology

Mary Baldwin College



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