Seasonal Depression and the Holiday Blues: It’s Real!

Seasonal Depression and the Holiday Blues: It’s Real!

SYRACUSE, NY – Some people love the cold weather months. For others, this time of year leaves them feeling sad, lonely, or even depressed.

Geoffrey Hopkins, MD, senior medical director for behavioral health at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, answers some questions about the symptoms of, and help for, seasonal depression. Dr. Hopkins is board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, and adult psychiatry, by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Q: Dr. Hopkins, why do people often feel “blue” this time of year?

A: When there is less sunlight, our bodies produce more melatonin, and that can make you feel drowsy or low on energy. With less sunlight, we also produce less serotonin, which can cause low mood or sadness. Some people may not really notice a change. For others, they may have mild and temporary changes in mood, also called the holiday or winter blues. Some people experience symptoms that are more severe and last all season, and even happen at the same time each year. That’s called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Up to 25% of people have changes in mood this time of year, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Q: Despite this time of year being very social, why is it lonely for many?

A: This time of year, we are inside and isolated more. The holidays can also be tough for those who are missing a loved one or who are having a difficult time connecting socially.

Q: What things can we do to beat the blues?

A: Good sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise can all help your mood. Even in the colder months, get outside for some sun. Find ways to connect with others by calling or getting together with a family member or friend. Volunteering can also be fun, rewarding, and social.

Q: When we feel blue, when is it the right time to talk to a health care professional?

A: It is okay to ask for help if you feel sad, low, or lonely. If you feel this way longer than a week or two, speak with your primary care provider or mental health provider. They will talk with you about your feelings and help you with next steps or treatment. Many offer telehealth visits.

If you are in distress or crisis, you can connect with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for free, 24/7, confidential support by texting 988, or calling 1-800-273-8255 (TTY 711). Language assistance is available. If you or a loved one is experiencing an emergency, you can also call 911, or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

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About Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company’s mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 4,200 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit

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