I have been approached a few times about people asking what to do when they are underwater because they are claustrophobic to a certain degree. There are many techniques that can help you push through this, but if in the long run you can not calm yourself you need to abort your dive.
The calmer you are when diving helps you preserve your oxygen as well as your enjoyment of the dive. Diving should be one of the most relaxing things you can do. It helps you forget the problems you face everyday on land.
Aborting Your Dive Safely and Effectively
If you are feeling like you are having a bit of anxiety or claustrophobia when you are diving it is imperative that you calm yourself down or you will have to safely abort the dive. When I say safely abort the dive I do not mean that you should race to the surface as fast as you can. This will put you in further risk of danger.
To safely abort your dive no matter what depth you are at you need to slowly ascend so you do not get nitrogen build up in your blood stream. This will cause the bends or decompression sickness and put you into a decompression chamber if you survive. Getting the bends is the last thing you want to get when you are diving. This comes from not taking your time to surface properly or not taking the recommended safety stops.
You will always want to make sure that you have a safe dive no matter what you are doing or how you are feeling. Sometimes the best course of action is to abort your dive and calm yourself down to possibly dive again later or the next day. DO NOT FORCE the issue just to make a dive.
When you are diving and feel like you are having a panic or anxiety attack the best thing to do beyond aborting your dive would be to take deep breaths to try to regain your composure. This happens to the best of divers and it has happened to me before. You breathe deeply, which may use a bit more of your oxygen but you will more than likely calm yourself down.
When you are taking these deep breaths you want to maintain your depth as this will help you in the long run. If you continue to descend it may make it harder for you to breathe because of the added pressure that you will be under. So, slow deep breaths are the way to go when having some anxiety.
If you are truly unable to calm yourself then you should abort your dive. There will be no one that ever would give you crap for aborting a dive if you feel unsafe to be under the water. It should be done in a controlled manner so you are able to safely return to shore, boat or point of entry that you started from.
Stay At A Depth Until You Are Comfortable
As you are diving you may have an anxiety or panic attack happen while you are under the water. This can and does happen to anyone. Not just those that are claustrophobic. If this happens to you then you should make sure that you remain calm and stay at the depth you are currently at.
By remaining at the current you will be able to focus on your breathing and calm yourself down before descending any further. This helps because you will not be adding anymore pressure from the water surrounding you as you descend. The deeper you go the more pressure you have put on you and your lungs and it will be harder to calm yourself.
If you need to ascend some to help you catch your breathing that is fine too just DO NOT shoot to the surface. This will put you in worse shape then you already are. Ascending some will help alleviate some pressure that you are feeling as you breathe. The pressure is called atmospheres and is measured in bars. Although, you will learn this when you take your diving courses, you really do not use it much in depending on what system of measurement you use.
Once you have gotten control of your breathing and plan to continue the dive, it is always best to descend slowly so that you do not get panicky again. Remaining calm while diving will help you in this as well. Once you have gotten control of yourself and you are enjoying the dive, you will probably forget that it started out badly.
There are many things that will help you relax while diving. The biggest one being the surrounding environment. Seeing the coral reefs, fish and other creatures from the world beneath will get you out of your mind and let the world on land fall to a distant memory. It relieves stress and can be very therapeutic if you take your time and enjoy yourself.
You should always have a safety plan in place when you are diving but when it comes to having a bit of anxiety or claustrophobia follow these tips and you will have a successful dive. Even if you have to abort your dive that is still better than having bigger issues down the road because you can not catch your breath.
Breathing deeply and slowly is going to be your best chance of overcoming a panicky situation. By doing so you will learn from practice that you can overcome any obstacle when you are diving and be able to enjoy yourself as well. Always descend in a manner that you are comfortable with and do not ever shoot or race to the surface.
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