According to research done at nearby Muhlenberg College (I was not surveyed), up to 10% of serious Harry Potter readers post Deathly Hallows are showing signs of addiction to the series and of withdrawal now that the series is complete. I urge you to read the whole thing, but here are a few of the meatier parts with some Hogwarts Professor comments:
In a just-finished study that’s being submitted to the Journal of General Psychology, psych professor Dr. Jeffrey Rudski and two of his undergrad students at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, report that they found characteristics of addiction in at least 10 percent of the 4,000 Potter fans they polled online. For “Harry Potter and the End of the Line: Parallels with Addiction,” they used craving scales that had been established for smoking, substituting “Deathly Hallows” for cigarettes. They surveyed fans before the book’s release, upon completion of the book and six months afterwards as a follow-up. The 10 percent of respondents that Rudski considers addicted described spending more than four hours a day on Potter-related activities, experiencing interference with appetite and sleep patterns, engaging in less physical activity, having a lower sense of well-being and being more irritable after completing the series.
“Some readers can become so engaged in the series and the ancillary world that grew out of it that they report behaviors that truly fit definitions of addiction or dependence,” the synopsis of his draft reads…..
The threshold for addiction is even more blurry than the one for alcoholism — with alcohol, you note whether someone’s drinking alone or more of a social drinker. But if the addiction involves a community, it’s harder to draw the line between fandom and compulsion. “A lot of the addiction isn’t even to the series itself,” Rudski said. “The series is over. The addiction is to everything that goes along with it, the ancillary world.” So while he only characterizes 10 percent of participants as being addicted, there was an additional 20 percent who gave him cause for concern, reaching what he called “a critical threshold.”
That would likely include participants who wrote things like “I want Rowling to know that I hate her … because I have nothing to live for now,” “I feel like someone close to me has died” and “I had trouble getting out of bed Monday morning. I was depressed and had nightmares all night long. I dreamed I was being attacked by Lucius Malfoy and Fenrir Greyback and didn’t have a wand because I was Muggle-born.”….
Likewise, Rudski’s subjects didn’t all turn their addictions into negative forces, but he found that those who were the most creative with their fandom showed the least disruption to their personal lives, addicted or not. For instance, those he calls the “core” fans, who read the books and liked to theorize, had the greatest amount of withdrawal symptoms. Online community fans, however, showed more of an intermediate level of withdrawal after reading the last book, but six months afterwards, still reported continued disruption (as opposed to core fans, who moved on). And for those who turned Harry Potter into a creative outlet — either through fan fiction, fan art or wizard rock — didn’t show hardly any withdrawal symptoms at all, though they continued to spend just as much time engaged in those activities as they did before. What does that tell us? “It’s more like a caffeine addiction,” Rudski said. “The withdrawal can be over, but the addiction is still there.”
Three Quick Comments in Response to This News:
(1) What Have We Learned? We knew that the books have sold over 400 million copies world wide, from Tennessee to Tehran, that the Fandom Internet community features close to 10,000 fan sites and who knows how many LiveJournal pages, and we’re aware that the books and movies have taken up so much of our cultural landscape that they can be called the “shared text” of the generation and the young century. Hearing that as many as 10% of Harry readers are “addicted” according to tests for substance abuse addiction is an interesting quantification and re-verbalizing of the depth and reach of Potter-mania but not much else. The study gives us a “that” with which PotterPhiles are very familiar; what we’re looking for are the “how” and “why” behind the “that.” What causes this identification and addictive behavior?
(2) How Bad Are You Hooked? Take this test. Did you ace it? Of course you did. Were you curious about how anyone who has read the book missed any of these questions? If so, I urge a course of self-reflection about your daily Potter dosages. I did not suffer withdrawal symptoms because, hey, it’s never ended for me. I was impressed that of the few people taking the test even one got the ages of Harry and Ginny’s children correct. I worry about people who know that kind of minutiae better than the names of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Poet Laureate of the United States, or their own nieces and nephews. Try this quiz, too; acing it may mean you’re around the twist. Wanting to go to the UK just because of Harry is also a giveaway.
(3) Methadone Cure I asked my oldest son yesterday if he would attempt a Graphic Novel layout of any chapter from the seven books; he’s thinking about it. What prompted that was The Artemis Fowl Files and the Graphic Novels of the Artemis Fowl books that my children have been waiting for the library to receive. Artemis isn’t Harry but their taste and desire for these texts between stories is being sated and whetted simultaneously by these offerings. I suspect it is something like the methadone “cure” for heroin addiction.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t care for Harry Potter in Graphic Novel format, though I grew up on Classic Comics and superhero comic books. I know the books too well, I fear, to enjoy the necessary editing in this genre (not unlike my experiences at the movie versions of the novels). But how about a teevee series or block-buster musical? If that 10% number is at all accurate, then 10% of a generation would surely tune in or dish out the cash for seats at the show. I’m certainly not the first to think of this idea. There are even YouTube Contests to get Fandom involved (check out this Chamber of Secrets commercial..). If we have an addiction problem, the musical or teevee program approach will be more accessible and helpful than the Theme Park (especially for the kids in Tehran caught up in the Zionist billion dollar project).
Joking aside, “why” and “how” these books have generated the fascination-approaching-even-crossing-into-addiction are the questions we should be asking and trying to answer, especially for those of us enduring withdrawal symptoms (“must… have… more…”). A new study of the fact of Potter mania in psychological language only confirms and places a quantitative signifier on a fact we know very well.
Your comments and corrections, please.