Are You An Addict? PotterPhiles Show Signs

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.


  1. John,
    I didn’t realize that becoming knowledgeable about a subject (in this case, Harry Potter) would qualify as “addiction.” I’ve multi-read the series because I enjoy the books and want to be able to participate in the AllPro discussions…but to be classified an *HP addict?* Hmmmmm…Could be called much worse!
    By the way…I scored 100% and would have been disappointed if I hadn’t.

    I hope Harry Potter DOES NOT become a TV series (animated or otherwise) or a broadway musical…neither production could do the books justice. The present cinema versions give testimony to how much is lost from book to screen, although the special effects do enhance one’s imagination when reading post-movie-viewing!

    The fact that you mention *The Artemis Fowl Files* is quite amusing…my grandson is also reading the series and blatantly announced last week that he was sending his copies of books 1-3 home with me to read! I dutifully packed them in my carry-on and completed #1 last night. They have their place in junior lit, but I confess I’m not all that gung-ho over the storyline. The grandson, however, LOVES the books; therefore, I will read them and we will discuss their finer qualities. Do you know of a website similar to this one that would help me discover those qualities??? 🙂

    PJ, proud to be addicted to TRUTH and literature that carries the Message!

  2. “I was impressed that of the few people taking the test even one got the ages of Harry and Ginny’s children correct.”

    Actually, given it was multiple choice and the middle child was starting at Hogwarts for the first time, ie was aged 11, it can be easily deduced without having to ‘remember’ it.

  3. Arabella Figg says

    There’s certainly a difference between addiction and strong interest.

    Those who seriously want to find Hogwarts and live there, and can’t be parted from their Gryffindor T-shirts long enough for laundering; those who excise all other reading and viewing material; who withdraw and can’t “let go” of the books for the real world and, effectively, mentally continue to inhabit that world. That’s addiction.

    True the books, like LoTR are quite “sticky” (meaning it’s hard to let that world go when you’ve finished), but there’s a difference between a fly on flypaper and someone with gum on their shoe.

    Strong interest however, is healthy. Interest leads to investigation, such as we have here, on the power, meaning and popularity of the books, studying their themes, symbols, metaphors, and not wearing capes, carrying serpent-head canes. I know I was quite satisfied at the end of the last book and could be quite happy with no more from JKR, but am still enjoying exploring the HP world and phenomenon now that the series was completed. I only participate at HogPro and visit links given here. But I could also walk away any time from participating online and have, at times, considered doing so.

    The addiction cited shows a serious connective lack in people’s lives and can be looked at psychologically. Interest shows lively minds. I’m the shoe, not the fly.

    Am I splitting hairs?

    Mrs. Fleasley doesn’t think so…

  4. PJ —

    Actually, a TV series of Harry Potter would probably be the best way to put Harry on screen. I too have been disappointed in the movies, but the problems there have had to do with the cuts necessary to get the story into a 3-ish hour time frame.

    Think about a TV series. 22 hours a year. 7 years. That’s 20 to 40 pages per episode. That’s practically shooting the books in real time.

    People have tossed the idea around, but nothing will happen till the movies are completely played out. I’d do almost anything to be part of the creative team on the HP TV show.


  5. Janet…

    You make marvelous sense and a very strong case for bringing Harry to television…and if you were part of the creative team, I would support the project 100%. I could see this type of project developed as a group of 7 mini-series, played out in “book-time”.

    Please don’t wait until the movies are completed and allow someone else to catch the next HP-tossup!

    PJ, making plans for future “HP nights” with the grands!

  6. Arabella Figg says

    Actually, I’m going to disagree, Janet, about a TV series. I fear each episode would have to have that rounded, storytelling effect. Since everyone knows what’s happened in the books (and films), there would be no “Lost” effect, keeping viewers gripped as to what happens next in the complex storytelling. The books did have this effect from chapter to chapter and, especially, during the Interlibrums, when speculation-interest ran high.

    I suppose it’s possible, with a good creative team, to do a Potter series, but more down the road, books and films far behind (especially the film actor portrayals). Perhaps then, each book could be done as 5 or 6 part miniseries, much as PJ suggested.

    Kitties don’t have anything “mini” about themselves at all…

  7. globalgirlk says

    I think I would classify as an addict. I am still suffering from withdrawal and that’s saying a lot. While I’ve only fully read the series once, I read the first six books about 2 times. I became obsessed and still, to this day can’t stop thinking about HP. It’s really a shame though because, until my grandmother died two years ago, I didn’t care about HP at all. Actually, I was anti-HP. Maybe my obsession is a way to deal with my grief? It still doesn’t make things any easier. I’m ashamed to say that I’m addicted to HP.

  8. Arabella Figg says

    Dear GlobalGirlk,

    Don’t feel ashamed for your attachement to the books. If Rowling wrote them to deal with the grief of her mother’s illness and death, why should they then not comfort you and help you deal with the impact of your own loss? Perhaps they’ve touched a nerve set in motion by your grandmother’s death.

    As I’ve written before, like the Lord of the Rings books, the HP books are very “sticky.” It’s hard to walk away cold turkey. Some can and some can’t. You’re so fully in another world, the characters are so real. Maybe you wish you were there in a different complexity than your own. Maybe things seem more clearly drawn than your own murky circumstances. Perhaps you’re drawn in exactly as you should be because of the edifying Christian elements and hope of the books. There are many reasons to be “stuck” on a book or books.

    The fact that you can admit it is very healthy. If you were denying it, that would be worrisome. Give yourself some grace. Perhaps you might find a book on dealing with grief and loss helpful. If you have friends who love the books, you can talk about it with them.

    You’ve certainly come to the right community here. We all love Harry, obviously, and want to discuss the books. We’re as interested as ever, like you. But more, we discuss the books’ impact and that may be helpful, too. I and the kitties hope you stay with us. Just be sure to launder the T-shirt! 🙂

    The kitties send you a purr…

  9. globalgirlk says

    I’m grateful for the purr, I lost my cat that week too. Sorry for the downer. Harry has been great in a way. I wrote my first fanfiction and it was actually pretty good. Because of the reception of my fanfiction, I’ve started writing a book. So in that essence, Harry has been a great thing. I’ve discovered British Literature like never before and I’ve learned that there are great books that don’t necessarily fall under the category of Christian fiction. I love to talk about the books with my parents and we pick up on subtleties that were included in the movies because my parents don’t read a lot. Yeah, I’m grateful for this site and especially for Looking for God…

  10. schmalchemy says

    OK, I’ll admit I am somewhat of a HP addict. I have read and re-read the books. I’ve read some HP “companion” books including “Hidden Keys…” and “Looking for…” In fact, it was catching an error on a quiz that got me to log on although I had read plenty of John’s blogs (and others’ comments) but never made any comments myself (guess I just lurked on the edges).

    I watch the movies whenever there is nothing else to do (okay, I’ll even admit to using many of the movie lines at times), but I am not such an addict that I have fallen apart at the ending of the series. And I loved the ending, too!

    With the ending of the series, I am finding plenty to do. There are plenty of novels that I have not had the opportunity to read, and I am enjoying reading them. I also have plenty of other things to do…working (as a pharmacist), working on my second book of poetry, working on some art pieces, planning reunions, etc.

    The point is this: I am not such an addict that I am ready to give up on life. (that is, there is more to life than Harry Potter). Please don’t start booing me for saying that!

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