“The dementors affect you more than others because there are true horrors in your past, horrors your classmates can scarcely imagine.”
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwarts with the knowledge that escaped mass murderer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has every intent of killing Harry. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) enlists the help of eerie creatures to protect the castle, but there may be other enemies lurking within its walls.
On the train to school, Harry encounters soul-sucking specters known as dementors. While his classmates feel lousy in the presence of dementors, Harry straight-up faints. Harry asks his new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) for help in combating the grim Azkaban prison guards, but the task is a difficult one.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Many people know that J.K. Rowling created dementors as a metaphor for depression; they trigger a response in Harry that aligns with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Using nightmarish flashbacks to illustrate their effect, Harry’s reaction to a dementor is explained by Professor Lupin: Harry’s trauma is more intense than his classmates’ trauma. Not only were his parents murdered in front of him, Harry survived a lethal attack once as a baby, then once again when he defended the Sorcerer’s Stone, and a third time when he rescued Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) from The Chamber of Secrets.
He’s also going through puberty; there’s no shortcutting the trauma of that situation.
There are two examples of Imposter Syndrome in this installation of Harry Potter, one of which lies with Harry. For the first time in his Hogwarts life, his vulnerabilities are exposed. Here is a kiddo who has thrice defeated Lord Voldemort, but he gets squirrelly around dementors. It’s an ego test for Harry, who shows “natural genius” aspects of the syndrome.
Meanwhile, there’s his lovely friend, Hermione (Emma Watson). A perfectionist at heart, Hermione’s Imposter Syndrome betrays her through the use of the time-turner. Though this useful tool comes in handy regarding Sirius Black and a hippogriff, Hermione’s got to be a little off her rocker to want to take so many classes that she literally has to manipulate time. This is one of those moments where I am going to do a book/film nerd rant: The toll that Hermione’s time-turning takes on her is more obvious in the books; she lacks sleep, gets irritable with Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson), and still expects herself to land perfect grades in all of her courses.
In fact, Hermione’s distaste for Divination parallels Harry’s distaste for dementors. As Hermione fails to show prowess where school is concerned, Harry quells under the dementors’ dark forces. Both of them struggle to regain their footing and prove themselves worthy as a result of their unique circumstances.