Anxiety is unfortunately synonymous with all extreme sports; Scuba diving is no different. There is no shame in that, the ocean is the most temperamental and dangerous of all the worlds natural areas and should be respected, if not feared at times. Diving often creates threatening or difficult situations whether that be in preparation, or in fact during the dive itself. Anxiety related symptoms can range from a quickened heartbeat to more severe panic attacks which in turn can lead to hyperventilation, lung overexpansion and death. Anxiety usually occurs in response to a mishap, such as a dive mask flooding with water. This may cause the diver to panic unnecessarily and behave irrationally and potentially put other divers at risk. While anxiety and fear can often evoke the best qualities in humans when we think and attempt to find a way out of a perilous situation, they can also cause us to make dangerous decisions which lead to dire circumstances. Here is a small list of how divers can prevent such incidents.
Learning to Dive – Never Rush
As an instructor I always attempt to create a calm environment for my students, both in open and confined water. When learning to dive it is crucial that you feel comfortable and never rushed. There is no time limit when practicing and honest communication between yourself and your instructor will be paramount in preventing stress and anxiety. If you feel that your instructor is rushing you or not understanding what you are trying to convey, let them know. Of course there will be moments when one will feel scared, maybe it is the moment when you put your face under the water and breath with a regulator for the first time. I personally find that many people don’t enjoy the sensation of taking off a mask and refitting it. Fear not, practice makes perfect and you are never forced to do anything you don’t want, just understand the rules of scuba diving and never be reckless. The more you talk to peers, read manuals and gain experience, the more confident you will feel. It is also recommended to attend a course that spreads over 3 days rather than 2 days. This will help to ensure that your instructor is not pressured by schedule and logistics and can spend the extra time with you.
Before Diving – Plan for your dive
Make sure you have everything you need for your dive! From your mask to your fins, check, check and double check prior to departure. Arriving at the site and not having the equipment you are comfortable with is frustrating and can lead to anxiety. Anxiety that you are letting other divers down or yourself may occur, and whatever happens do not dive without essential items of gear. Weather and marine conditions also affect the anxiousness of divers, for example if there are large waves or strong currents at the dive site divers’ stress levels can elevate. If you feel that you are not able to cope or have previous experience in such conditions, sit it out.
While Diving – Never Exceed Your Skill Level or Limits
Anxiety can be brought on with depth and finding yourself out of your comfort zone – that being said do not venture further than your skills.
For divers of all qualifications always monitor your air and depth, there is nothing worse than being out of your depth or out of air and having to take extreme action to return to the surface. Furthermore, don’t go push yourself to undertake dives that exceed your training. For example, never enter caves if you are claustrophobic, or dive with sharks If they scare you, you are not forced to participate just say no and undertake another activity that suits you.