The symptoms of a depressive episode are similar to that of depression and include; feeling down, upset or tearful, being tired, lacking enjoyment in previously liked activities, low self-confidence, guilt, hopelessness, being agitation or tense, self-harm or suicidal ideation, changes in eating habits, being withdrawn and being less active. These feelings are likely to be more intense in the context of Bipolar disorder because of the contrast between manic and depressive episodes. These episodes can be long lasting, sometimes lasting for several months.
Some people with a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder will experience psychotic symptoms. These are most likely to occur during manic episodes although they can also occur during depressive episodes. These symptoms can be particularly difficult to deal with as they will feel very real at the time.
Psychotic symptoms include; delusions of grandeur, paranoia, hallucinations which can be auditory (hearing voices), visual (seeing things), smell, taste or even tactile (feelings on your skin).
Unfortunately, manic and depressive episodes don’t always occur independently of each other. In some cases people may experience both at the same time and these can be the most difficult and dangerous episodes as it may be more challenging than usual to deal with the symptoms, it can be difficult to understand your own emotions and therefore, what help to seek. It can also be most difficult for your friends, family and professionals to know how to help during these episodes.
On the other hand, people will often have periods when they are stable or neutral in between episodes. In some cases people experience stability for years in between episodes.