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Why should I make a plan for life if I have bipolar disorder?

Those with Bipolar Disorder (and other serious mental illnesses) should create a "plan for life" outlining steps to take should they become suicidal or unable to care for themselves. A "plan for life" includes contact information for family members, friends and doctors. Those with the disorder are also urged to fill out a Psychiatric Advance Directive, which lays out a plan for treatment, should an episode of depression or mania render them incapable.

I think of this question as having two different answers:

  • Living with bipolar disorder means having a good set of contingencies in place to assist and support you through times of unstable mood. What these contingency plans are will have everything to do with how your specific mood instability manifests. But better to do the contingency planning and put measures in place when you're feeling stable as opposed to when you're in the midst of a depressive funk or hypomanic mood elevation that’s impairing your judgment and your capacity to plan effectively.
  • Living with bipolar disorder means facing some degree of variability. And while it is essential to maintain flexibility with future planning, it can also be useful to have short-term and longer term goals clearly established. Keeping sight of your progression towards your goals will help you keep track of where you're headed if and when you're thrown off track by episodes of instability.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.