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28 Subtle 'Clues' You’re Slipping Into a Bipolar Depressive Episode

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Living with bipolar disorder might sometimes feel like you’re stuck on a roller coaster, complete with ups and downs, as well as twists and turns. But as you learn to live with bipolar, you may start to recognize the “signs” that indicate you’re about to slip into a bipolar depressive episode.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

These signs might look different from person to person. For some, it may look like a change in appetite. For others, it may be changes in the way they talk — either a lot less or more slowly than usual.

Everyone is different, so we turned to our community to share what “clues” let them know they were slipping into a depressive episode. Below, you can read what they had to say.

Here’s what our community shared:

1. Losing Interest in Activities

“I become lethargic and I have absolutely no desire or willpower to do the things I usually enjoy doing. I become very irritable, then immediately go into a really dark place over feeling so guilty for lashing out at my loved ones.” — Allisha M.

“Everything just starts to make no sense and becomes pointless. Nothing seems worth doing anymore.” — Becky V.

2. Self-Isolating

“I isolate myself from everyone, including myself. I stop having the energy to clean or keep up on myself. Some days, it’s even hard for me to do regular mom duties for my beautiful son.” — Destiny A.

“First I start spending more time alone. Then I start avoiding people.” — Katja C.

3. Picking Fights Over ‘Little Things’

“I start picking fights over little things and my sensory overload becomes more sensitive. I snap at my family [who is] just trying to eat dinner. I once yelled at my significant other (and made them cry) over one of their favorite fictional characters for a reason I can’t even remember.” — Alex A.

“Agitation and irritability. It comes with my depressive and mixed episodes. I have zero patience or tolerance and I snap at loved ones for no reason. It’s one of the symptoms I hate the most.” — Cassandra D.

4. Morning Routine Falling Apart

“My morning routine starts to fall apart, starting with not making the bed, and if it happens a few days in a row, [I know] it’s happening! Also, I am in a constant state of tiredness and the tension in my shoulders builds into painful knots.” — Alex D.

5. Experiencing ‘Brain Fog’

“The first sign for me is normally brain fog. I zone out more. I have a harder time concentrating or remembering things. I miss this sign most of the time. It’s only once I begin to withdraw from life around me that I realize. I begin to see changes in my mood. Then I can reflect back and see the brain fog started first. Of course, it increases as the depression does so when I’m at my lowest, I’m completely lost.” — Jen D.

6. Feeling Overwhelmed by ‘Simple’ Tasks

“The fatigue starts setting in and everything — no matter how small — begins to feel like too much effort. My world narrows and I want to do less and less, shying away from interacting with friends and becoming overwhelmed by ‘simple’ everyday tasks. Even replying to a text message feels too much.” — Aimi C.

7. Sleeping More Than Usual

“I can never get too much sleep. If I am constantly feeling like I’m ready for bed/needing a nap, I know I’m on my way toward a depressive episode. It’s strikingly different from my hypomania, which usually gives me plenty of energy, even if I don’t get a full eight hours.” — Maranda B.

“Oh man, I will sleep for entire days and wake up, go scrounge some food maybe, and then right back to bed.” — Sarah P.

8. Listening to Sad Music

“I don’t want to listen to upbeat music, the sadder the better (or worse honestly). I get clingy to one certain person — I can’t get close enough to them. I want sweet stuff and comfort food. Sad movies and books. It was always worse when I wasn’t on my meds.” — Ashley W.

9. Struggling to Care About Hygiene

“Personal hygiene goes out of the window, sleep increases, become distant and snappy at everything, no energy and concentration.” — Joe C.

“The lack of caring. I stop caring about everything from personal hygiene to doctors appointments to my plans, basically everything.” — Madison T.

10. Shifts in Thought Patterns

“A distinct shift in thought patterns. I start blaming myself for everything bad happening (including things out of my control). I lose interest in everything. I sleep 18 to 20 hours a day but can never get enough rest or sleep and it feels like wading through waist-high syrup. Everything is slow and hard to do or get through.” — Stine S.

11. Feeling Scared of Everything

“When I start to become scared of everything, so scared I can’t leave the house, then can’t leave the bed. Also when I become overly-attached to my dog.” — Sammy E.

12. Feeling Detached

“When I start dissociating. I sleep more because I don’t want to be awake and feel the feelings. I begin to lose my willpower, and my anxiety kicks into high gear.” — Nathalie F.

“When you feel detached from everything. The numb, empty feeling is the run-up to a downer. You feel like an empty balloon.” — Kayleigh F.

“I feel my reality slipping from my fingers. I feel overwhelmingly sad, have a hard time connecting to myself. Feel like my head is somewhere else and my body is a tired shell. I get spins in my head looking for something to latch on to while the ride slows again.” — Vanessa D.

13. Gaining Weight

“When I start gaining weight and my schedule becomes empty, that is the tip-off. Then it’s kind of like dropping off a huge cliff from there.” — Emily A.

14. Thinking About Self-Harming

I can normally tell when my eating habits change; if I’m not eating enough or overeating. If I start thinking about self-harming again is normally a big indicator. If I start having problems concentrating, and stomach problems really indicate depression settling back in.” — Sidney P.

If you are having thoughts about self-harming or you are actively self-harming, there is hope.

You can also check out our Mighty condition guide on understanding self-harm and try some of the alternative coping skills.

15. Craving ‘Comfort Foods’

“A couple of my ‘red flags’ are I start having that ‘bottomless pit’ of hunger, mainly craving carbs and comfort foods, and the other is I start longing to hear my really deep, emotionally ripping-my-heart-open music.” — Rhainy C.

16. Changes to Your Tone of Voice

“I become lethargic, my tone of voice changes, apathy takes over and I want to cry all day for no reason.” — Shannon H.

17. Losing Track of Things

“I start losing track of things. I start missing appointments or meetings. I forget what day it is. I leave words out of sentences when I’m writing because I thought I wrote them. It’s like I’m in a haze.” — Emily M.

18. Overthinking

“I start thinking a lot more. When I’m manic everything is impulsive but when I’m depressive I think a lot and feel like I hurt a lot.” — Nikita W.

19. Having Nightmares

“Nightmares or really weird dreams, like really, really weird, and getting wound up about the house looking ‘scruffy’ when in reality there’s never a thing wrong with it.” — Kellie E.

20. Overspending

“Amazon boxes start showing up on my doorstep. I know spending is typically a manic symptom, but I find that I try to stave off my budding depression with retail therapy.” — Keira M.

“Agitation and reckless spending typically is my red flag right before I crash!” — Shaunese E.

21. Experiencing ‘Paranoid’ Thoughts

“I get paranoid thinking everyone is mad at me and emotional, overreacting and then shutting down.” — Makayla F.

“I become easily angered and start having irrational thoughts and paranoia.” — David G.

22. Missing Work

“I can’t go to work. I don’t reply to messages. I lose my appetite.” — Bunga S.

I start thinking about ways to call into work.” — Pierre-Julien C.

23. Being Unable to Get Out of Bed

“It gets incredibly difficult to get out of bed. It’s almost like my bed is holding me hostage and I just can’t get up.” — Ash I.

“No motivation or energy. Not wanting to get out of bed. Feeling sluggish. Negative thoughts.” — Heather S.

“I start sleeping more and lose interest in getting out of bed.” — Charly B.

24. Insomnia

“Lack of sleep. Normally my medication knocks me out at night so if I don’t sleep, I know something’s wrong.” — Kate K.

25. Feeling Exhausted

“I’m exhausted. Completely and utterly exhausted.” — Summer F.

“Isolating myself and complete exhaustion. Unable to get out of bed.” — Jane H.

“Constant fatigue, naps and short temper.” — Morgan N.

26. Canceling Appointments

“I cancel appointments and meetings. Or I don’t show up for social events. I don’t answer the phone or respond to texts.” — Kristy H.

27. Unable to Make Eye Contact With Others

“I stop looking at myself in mirrors and I can’t make eye contact with anyone.” — Nicole S.

28. Not Talking As Much

“I stop caring and don’t want to talk as much. So pretty much what’s happening now.” — Kailyn B.

Maybe you see some of yourself in these answers. Knowing what signs to look out for can be helpful in stopping or lessening the effects of a depressive episode.

You don’t have to deal with a depressive episode by yourself. Our Mighty community is always going to be here for you, through the ups and the downs. If you need a distraction, you can always post a Thought or Question using the hashtag #DistractMe.

Do you have a subtle sign you’re slipping into a bipolar depressive episode that’s not listed? Feel free to share it in the comments below.

Originally published: July 23, 2019
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