Bipolar, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (G.A.D.) and travelling alone. Hello, I wonder if anyone can give me some help and advice please. I'm travelling alone to Australia next year, which is mind-blowing as sometimes I struggle to walk down the street. However do I need to notify the airline that I have issues? Also concerned about the time difference and when to take meds, think I may have bitten off more then I can chew with this plan.

Any help, advice, tips will be very gratefully received.

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    I think you need to talk to your doctor about the issue with meds, any advice on shifting the schedule is probably particular to you and your meds. Hopefully someone here will be able to provide guidance and reassurance on the rest of your questions.
    – SpaceDog
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 12:37
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    Also, ensure that any medication you are taking is legal in your destination (Australia). The kind of psychoactive drugs taken for mental health conditions can have different rules in different places.
    – CMaster
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 13:24
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    Are you worried about the "flying" part and inside the plane? or worried about being alone in australia? Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 13:28
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    It is VERY IMPORTANT that you check the laws of the countries you are travelling to, including any that you stop over in. A number of people have been arrested for possessing prescribed meds when their flights stopped at some place. A few of those people only had the meds in their bloodstream, they didn't have any actual pills with them. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 21:07
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    You don't say how long you're going to be there. A friend of mine planning an extended inter-continental trip ran into the issue of not being able to get a prescription for a quantity of their medications that would last the duration of the trip. That implied the possible need to either find a psychiatrist in-country, and possibly deal with them in a non-native language, or come home briefly mid-trip to see their usual clinician and get meds refilled. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 22:25

4 Answers 4


I have a close friend who was diagnosed with G.A.D and panic attacks some years ago. I have been around and I have seen him suffer even when he travels with me, especially that he is a bit scared of flying, which triggers panic attacks for him.

The following tips usually work but it might be different from one person to another, so feel free to tweak them a bit:

  • Keep your mind busy. Read a book, play a game in your smart phone, watch a movie, etc.
  • Take an aisle seat. It will help you feel a bit in control when your anxiety peaks. A little walk around the cabin can relieve it.
  • This is one of the cases where Xanax usage is legitimate, ask your doctor to prescribe some for you to be used shortly before the flight.
  • The first hour or so of the flight will be the hardest, anxiety will be less after that and it might start peaking again before landing.
  • Get enough sleep before the flight. Do not force yourself to be awake for long time before the flight then plan to sleep the whole flight. If you have anxiety you know that you can't sleep, lack of sleep makes anxiety level higher. Sleep well before the flight to have a better mood during the flight.
  • No harm in telling a cabin crew member that you are worried about flying. If you ever have some fear of flying look at their smiling faces, this will help you realize that things are ok.
  • Always remind yourself that no one ever died from G.A.D or from panic attacks. It is just a mind trick.

For the medication times in different timezones, a previous question answers that.

Regarding being alone in a strange place and struggling when walking alone, it's common with G.A.D. and medicines should help in these cases. Just remember to start exploring areas next to your accommodation, the feeling of being able to get back quickly will make you feel a bit calm. Avoid crowds and narrow places.


Adding to CMaster's comment, even if the medication is legal at the destination, make sure that:

  • you have a copy of the prescription with you while travelling (in your hand luggage + a copy in your checked luggage as well)
  • you have enough for the whole trip + some margin (it's probably not going to be easy to get more while you're there)
  • you check if you need to declare them to customs (you probably do).

Also, you're not telling us where you are flying from. If you're flying from Europe, you'll probably transit through Asia or the Middle-East, check the rules for your medication in the transit country as well. Even if you don't go through customs while in transit, it's better to be safe.

I recommend you get good travel insurance in case anything happens. No reason anything should happen, but you'll feel safer knowing you can rely on someone to help you if that were the case.

Enjoy your time in Australia, it's really a great place!

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    Just to add the travel insurance for people who declare a serious mental illness (which bi-polar usually is) get eye-watering quotes. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 21:08

I sometimes travel with a friend who has Type 1 Bipolar Disorder.

She is normally stable, but when she experiences mania, it is severe and requires hospitalization.

We traveled to the state of Florida in the USA. This involved a time change.

About a week into the trip, she experienced full mania.

The mental health "treatment" she received in the hospital and clinic in the Florida Keys was absolutely atrocious. In my opinion, it was inhumane. The doctor who ran the mental health clinic was not even able to make a proper diagnosis. He claimed that she had multiple personalities and that one of those personalities happened to have Bipolar Disorder. Complete rubbish.

During "treatment" in the Florida Keys, she received so many medications at such high doses that she now suffers from permanent Tardive Dyskinesia.

What follows is what I learned from that experience that may help you.

I recommend speaking with your psychiatrist, therapist, and primary doctor about traveling.

I believe time shifts can contribute to causing mania episodes. Also, nausea from traveling can result in vomiting medication. Furthermore, overbooked schedules can create stress.

Sufficient sleep is paramount for anyone with Bipolar Disorder. I recommend planning very loose and flexible schedules during travel. That way, there is no pressure to wake up before receiving sufficient sleep.

I also recommend asking your doctors for sleep-inducing medications that are compatible with your medication regime. Your doctors may recommend medications such as Seroquel, Temazepam, Trazodone, or Zolpidem. Whatever they prescribe, try them before you leave. That way, you will understand if it works and any side effects.

Your doctors may also be able to prescribe anti-nausea medications (such as Ondansetron) to help prevent any travel-induced nausea. Haldol is also known to help with nausea, and is sometimes used to help with Bipolar Disorder. Again, try any medications before you leave.

You may also find that bringing relaxing music with you will help. Guided meditations be very useful as well. I recommend starting the practice before you travel.

Some essential items to bring with you:

  • Earplugs. Find a brand that works for you, and try them at home before you travel.
  • Headphones. To listen to music and/or guided meditations.
  • Sleep mask. Find one that works for you, and try it before you travel. I recommend ones that that have little "pods" that don't touch your eyelids.
  • Water bottle. Note that you will likely have to empty it at security checkpoints. Stay hydrated at the appropriate level. Some psychotropic medications such as Lithium require that you not be under or over hydrated. If you take such a medication, talk with your doctors for details. One strategy could be to start monitoring your fluid intake now, so you can match that level on your trip.

Since they speak a language in Australia that you speak as well, perhaps you can find support groups there. You can attend just for fun, or if you want support with any challenges.

I do not know legal requirements, but I've never heard of any that require that you disclose your illnesses to airlines unless it would affect the health or safety of others. Regardless, if you feel that it will help you in some way, you can voluntarily provide the information. Given your illnesses, it would certainly be a reasonable accommodation to request early boarding or an aisle (or window) seat.

In addition to being prepared, I recommend taking it easy. Keep things loose and flexible. Don't set lofty goals that your trip needs to be perfect. Just going is a huge accomplishment (I'm very happy for you!). Your health is the most important thing, so I recommend making it your priority. Take it slow, take it easy, and have some fun! I'm cheering for you! :-)

  • I would consider taking out the first part of your excellent answer, everything up to and including the "What follows ..." line. The reason is that it's more of a rant against the medical profession in the states, while it may serve as a cautionary tale it may also cause people to stop reading your answer -- expecting that it's all more of the same -- when in fact you give very good advice in the second part. You have a legitimate complaint about the treatment your friend got, I just don't think here is the place to share it. That's my personal opinion, others may disagree.
    – SpaceDog
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 3:48
  • @SpaceDog Many thanks for the feedback. I thought about that as well. I considered deleting the first half, but I felt like it lost all the context and how I gained all this knowledge. Regardless, I value your feedback and will consider your advice. Thanks again! Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 5:18
  • Truly frightening. Was any legal action taken as a result? Not so much to obtain money, but to ensure that the FL doctor is professionally investigated? You don''t mention if the FL doctor contacted your friend's doctor, whcih I woudl expect.
    – Mawg
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 9:16
  • No legal action has been taken, although it is possible. It's very expensive, time-consuming, and stressful to prove anything. I know bills have been sent to my friend claiming thousands of dollars in services. To my knowledge, the FL doctor never even spoke with my friend's doctor. I dealt with unrelated medical malpractice, and found the system to be rigged in favor of doctors. Many doctors refuse to recognize malpractice because they don't want to testify. I discovered that the worst doctors are sometimes the heads of medical review boards, and thus do not fear review boards in any way. Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 5:29

I will make this brief and to the point: I feel where you are coming from.
The way my bp manifests itself is I feel a general disdain for everyone around me, which causes me to be very short tempered and impatient.
To the point where I make rude comments out loud to anyone who I feel is impeding my progress or enjoyment (such as the people in front of me getting off the plane at glacial speed).
It is not uncommon for me to get into verbal confrontations multiple times per day, and when I was younger there were several occassions where a physical confrontation would ensue.

The solutions I have found to be effective: marijuana use in frequent durations but at a low level of consumtion. Think taking 1 puff of a cigarette type one-hitter every few hours (when possible, not during the flight).
Also effective is Valium or Xanax.
It's a long flight, sleep as much as you can. Be sure to have a couple things to help you focus on being you, like a smartphone/tablet/laptop/book, etc. Cut yourself off from the noise. Finally, keep repeating to yourself when you need to, the following phrase: 'we are all just people trying to get somewhere'. Once you accept that fact, you have come to terms with the fact that for a few hours, you will be submerged in an environment that panders to the lowest common denominator so to speak - if the person at the head of the line getting off the plane takes an extra 3 minutes to gather their belongings before allowing the line to proceed, that's just the way it is and you can't do anything about it.
Of course it sucks, but usually not as bad as you think it will suck.
Just stay zonked out, sleep, and definitely stay away from the alcohol unless you like making an inordinate amount of trips to and from the plane lavatory (which will disrupt your sleep).

  • Note to consider: Marijuana is illegal in most countries and transporting it across borders can have very serious concequences, like imprisionment of even death penalties.
    – Willeke
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 13:10
  • Marijuana has proven medical benefits and is legal in many parts of the world, including a growing number of states in the US where it is dispensed to patients like any other prescribed medication. I offered solutions I have found to be effective, it is up to the poster to determine what method(s) to employ based on the severity of his/her condition.
    – jsscio
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 13:52

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