Dementors in the Harry Potter series are a metaphor for depression. Here's what J.K. Rowling went through and how it inspired the Dark creatures.
The presence of Dementors in the Harry Potter series was meant to signify the overwhelming feeling caused by depression. The Dark creatures were mentioned in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets but their first appearance came in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Author J.K. Rowling was known for injecting aspects of her personal life into her beloved series, and that was the case with the creation of Dementors.
Dementors were wraithlike beings who could be best described as soul-suckers. In the novel series, Dementors were hooded humanoid figures who had the ability to glide across the ground. The movie adaptations, however, portrayed the creatures as being skeletal in nature with the power to fly freely. Either way, both versions fed on human happiness. They could force depression and dread to any human in close proximity while a Dementor's Kiss could suck out the soul of a person leaving them in a vegetative state.
Within the Harry Potter series, Dementors were primarily used as prison guards at Azkaban. They worked for the Ministry of Magic and would be forced to guard certain areas. When Sirius Black was on the loose, Dementors traveled to Hogwarts to guard the grounds. After Voldemort rose to power during the Second Wizarding War, the Dementors switched allegiances and assisted the Dark Lord. Harry and his classmates were tasked with facing the dangerous creatures on a number of occasions. The only defense that could be used against Dementors was the Patronus Charm, the spell that unleashed a spirit guardian. Based on the story arcs involving Dementors, it was clear that the creatures personified depression, and only happy memories could get rid of them.
J.K. Rowling's Experience With Depression Inspired The Creation Of Dementors
Before J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, she was diagnosed with clinical depression. While writing the initial novel, Rowling suffered from the loss of her mother, a failed marriage, unemployment, and the struggles being a single mother. She viewed herself as a failure and was plagued by depression to the point that she contemplated suicide. After relocating to Scotland with her young child, Rowling used her emotions as inspiration in her writing. She credited the presence of Dementors as being a metaphor for depression.
Dementors were ghastly figures in Harry Potter that brought feelings of hopelessness, despair, immense sadness, and self-hatred. With one big breath, Dementors could take away the light and happiness in the air the same way that depression could cloud a person's mindset. Dementors could only be seen by wizards and witches while muggles could feel their wrath but not see them directly. This situation falls in line with how humans encounter depression in real life. Interesting enough, there aren't many defenses against Dementors just as how depression is very difficult to overcome. The Patronus Charm did the job and the spell purposely symbolized bright positive energy, something that sufferers seek out when battling depression.