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Why Divers Panic

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Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#1  Postby nanda666 » Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:59 am

An article from sport divers here in Australia. Think it will be helpful for everyone...


The Healthy Diver: Why Divers Panic — And How to Deal With It

by Selene Yeager


Divers by nature tend to be cucumber cool. How else could you sail out to sea, toss on a tank, and plunge into the depths of the ocean blue? Yet, dwelling within each of us is a panic button that can get pushed when we least expect it, sending us into the danger zone without warning.

Fact is one fifth of all diver deaths can be directly attributed to panic, according to the National Underwater Accident Data Center. Another 22 percent of fatalities remain a mystery. Considering the number of divers who are recovered with working equipment, plenty of air, and their weight belts firmly in place, most experts believe that death due to panic is far more common than reported.

Panic can kill in any number of ways. Rapid, shallow breathing can cause hypoxia and a buildup of carbon dioxide, causing the diver to act irrationally, breathing faster, expelling the regulator or bolting to the surface. These panic responses can make you pass out, or even have a heart attack if you have a weak heart. Panicking also hinders your ability to solve problems and get to safety when your equipment malfunctions. Here’s how to keep your cool.

Practice makes poised. Always do a checkout dive to make sure your wetsuit still fits (nothing like not being able to breathe to induce anxiety), equipment still works and your skills are sharp. Practice sharing air and clearing your mask and all those skills you may not have done since certification. Know what to do so you problem solve and don’t panic if your regulator starts free flowing or your mask floods or gets kicked off. Review the dive details with the dive master, so there are no surprises. Before a dive, assess your mental state. Ask yourself, "Am I anxious? Am I breathing too fast?" If you answer yes, something about the dive is worrying you. Figure it out and problem-solve it before you go under.

Hatch emergency plans. Stuff happens. It’s rational to be a little afraid when something goes awry underwater, but if you have planned for it that rational fear is far less likely to become irrational panic. What might send you over the edge? Seeing a shark? Losing your dive buddy? Equipment failure? Have an emergency procedure ready for every situation and rehearse them with your dive buddy. That way if something scary happens, you both know what to do and you’ll automatically do it.

Stop. Breathe. Think. Act. Once panic starts creeping in you need to do what you can to stop it in its tracks. It’s nearly impossible to panic when you’re taking deep even breaths from your diaphragm. Train yourself to Stop — Breathe — Think — Act when something unexpected happens. Of course, it's often breathing — specifically the inability to do so — that causes panic. If you're out of air or otherwise having trouble breathing, the other steps still apply. Think about your options. Most people can easily hold their breath for a minute. That's enough time to find your backup air (or buddy) and get a breath.

Know the signs. The following are classic signs that you're losing your cool (notice that these are signs that you can recognize you before you get in the water, too). If you experience any of them, stop to relax, breathe, think — and seek help.

• Rapid breathing or feeling like you can't get enough air.

• Rapid heart rate, palpitations or heaviness in the chest.

• Gastrointestinal distress, "butterflies," nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

• Muscle tension, headache or tremors.

• Trembling voice or inability to speak.

• Sweating, chills or hot flashes, feeling out-of-control or impending doom.
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#2  Postby run » Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:41 am

i tend to panic as well but my panic is a responsive panic. I know i am in a panic situation, relax a bit and then proceed to think of the next step.
i have to say routine myself by addding some physical endurance exercise do help a lot not only for my body but my brain as well.
Example when i swimming and i get cramps in the middle of the pool, steady myself and remain float.
Knowledge itself wont be any use without fitness in mind and body.
i pray i wont get into a totally panic situation.
Thanks for sharing nanda666
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#3  Postby gavstang » Thu Jul 11, 2013 9:50 am

Thanks for sharing that Nanda666. Panic in my opinion will kill you faster than punching a shark in the nose. I think all of us who dive have at one stage or another experienced the cold grip of panic before to varying degrees. None of us being emotionless automatons Im sure this is the case. Personally, its happened to me on numerous occasions. The first time on my 3rd certification dive at Tenggol due to the adverse sea conditions, my lack of knowledge and experience and failure to descend. THe 2nd time at Pulau Sembilan when faced with 1m viz, lost buddies and strong currents. There are other occasions but these 2 stand out in my mind. I managed to deal with those situations in the end but I will never forget the panic i felt for those brief moments.

Personally, I feel that diving is like all physical activity something you need to be prepared for and I mean this in terms of mental and physical preparation. I am rather taken aback by how unprepared or naive the majority of rec divers I have met are. Most have barely functioning knowledge of their training , are ignorant of how to read their dive comp (the common situation being "why i got ERR on my Dive Comp ah?"), have not bothered increasing their knowledge on the processes of diving or even done a simple read up on the dive sites they are going to, are unaware of the multiplicity of dangers underwater as they think diving is just all fun and sun, are physically out of shape, my personal bugbear..cant swim..you dive but you cant swim? Cmon gimme a break. The list goes on. Failure to prepare mentally and physically will get you into trouble on a dive and could lead to a full blown panic attack which may just claim your life. Therefore, Id urge all of us who dive to just put a little more thought into our diving instead of just breezing through it without a care in the world.
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#4  Postby run » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:09 am

gavstang wrote:Personally, I feel that diving is like all physical activity something you need to be prepared for and I mean this in terms of mental and physical preparation. I am rather taken aback by how unprepared or naive the majority of rec divers I have met are. Most have barely functioning knowledge of their training , are ignorant of how to read their dive comp (the common situation being "why i got ERR on my Dive Comp ah?"), have not bothered increasing their knowledge on the processes of diving or even done a simple read up on the dive sites they are going to, are unaware of the multiplicity of dangers underwater as they think diving is just all fun and sun, are physically out of shape, my personal bugbear..cant swim..you dive but you cant swim? Cmon gimme a break. The list goes on. Failure to prepare mentally and physically will get you into trouble on a dive and could lead to a full blown panic attack which may just claim your life. Therefore, Id urge all of us who dive to just put a little more thought into our diving instead of just breezing through it without a care in the world.


gavstang i 200% agree with you.
hehehehe quite fedup right when you end up with divers that have so many outrages diving gears but too lazy to learn anything with it.
Occasionally we will meet these type of people, so we would just have to deal with it. About the swimming part, swimming is a good xcersize, reduce knee pain and build up stamina especially in control breathing. It helps a lot teaching your brain not to be in a panic mode when you are desprate in need of air.
Water threading is also good. When you are swimming from end to end , try not to hold the swimming pool wall for around 3min. Just by doing water threading alone in 3 min will get you sweat a lot.
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#5  Postby nanda666 » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:13 am

gavstang wrote: my personal bugbear..cant swim..you dive but you cant swim? Cmon gimme a break.


This has been an issue with many divers I've come across.

For PADI instructors certifying OW students, they must ensure the students have:
1. Ability to swim 100m without aid of floatation devices or 200m with Mask/Fin/Snorkel
and
2. Able to tread water/float for 10 mins

Most students with basis level of swimming will be able to comply by the above.

What is left to the discretion of the instructor is the "comfort level" of the students in the water.

I have ended a number of courses based on the "comfort level" observed and adviced a number of my students to improve their swimming skills before coming back to try scuba.....most of them really appreciated that I cared for their safety in the open water and did take lessons, practised and came back as better swimmers.....some of them have even moved on to be PADI PROs!! (So providing this advice DOES NOT cause an instructor to lose business!)

But with any training system, the pressure of meeting targets, student availability, trips planned, cost and economics, etc, etc sometimes cloud the judgement of instructors trying to get students certified.

If you're part of this forum, it is clear you want to know more, improve your skills and knowledge and basically want to be a better diver.

So if you have any issues (Incl. the ability to swim well) that you feel will get you into a panic situation, do your best to address it before your next dive! .....just my 2 cents!!... ;)
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#6  Postby gavstang » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:16 am

nanda666 wrote:
So if you have any issues (Incl. the ability to swim well) that you feel will get you into a panic situation, do your best to address it before your next dive! .....just my 2 cents!!... ;)


AMEN! Diving is fun! Lets just dive safer!
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#7  Postby reztitan » Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:12 pm

hmm I have meet someone who totally very panicky when it comes to diving. This individual only dive with 1 instructor and that instructor alone, will join only when this particular instructor organize trip, and he will only buy diving gear from this particular instructor only. Lets not mention name.

Once he got a small leak on his regulator, rather than figuring out what had gone wrong or switch to his octopus, he straight inflate his bcd and surfaced. Swim towards the shore and hug onto a rock. Only to be rescued by the boat man later. Lucky it was just a shallow dive.

To me, if one feel so stressful of diving. Why not just don't dive. He put himself and other next to him in danger.
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#8  Postby gavstang » Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:41 pm

Sounds too stressful to be fun!
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#9  Postby Lotusman » Sat Jul 13, 2013 11:04 pm

This is a very educative and good thread/topic, thanks nanda666 for raising it. May be we can share our panic situations and how we handled it.
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#10  Postby run » Sun Jul 14, 2013 7:47 am

A great example for a panic situation maybe my burst tank underwater 11~12m.
If I was panic at that point I think I would swim to the surface with no control ascent but instead I understand the situation STOP and BREATH for awhile after knowing what happened with
my oring, THINK either CESA or swim to the group of buddies. ACT by choosing my buddies much safer
Another good thing was I had trained for buddy breathing drill a day before the incident happened so it is good to repeat what you have learned in open water.
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Re: Why Divers Panic

Post Number:#11  Postby nanda666 » Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:47 pm

run wrote:A great example for a panic situation maybe my burst tank underwater 11~12m.
If I was panic at that point I think I would swim to the surface with no control ascent but instead I understand the situation STOP and BREATH for awhile after knowing what happened with
my oring, THINK either CESA or swim to the group of buddies. ACT by choosing my buddies much safer
Another good thing was I had trained for buddy breathing drill a day before the incident happened so it is good to repeat what you have learned in open water.


Run - Reading your statement above, it highlights something even more important. Do divers know how to ascend safely?? In your situation above, from 12m, you actually can swim slowly to the surface (remember not to go up faster that your bubbles....) if you wanted to provided you haven't acceeded your NDL. No need of CESA or swimming to your buddies.
What if your tank ran out before you got to your buddies? Now you're created a CESA situation....you see??

FYI - You can dive for 60 minutes at 16m (38mins@20m and 23mins@25m) and ascend without a safety stop. Pls check your RDP. The 3mins at 5m is recommended for every dive but that is all it is...a recommendation. You are required to do a safety stop when you get within 3 pressure groups of your NDL.

Guys and gals - The open water course and RDP could feel "kampung"/old stuff to most of you with sophisticated dive computers but the basics need to be clearly understood. pls do read up more on DCS as well as Lung expansion and understand the differences. Understand what happens to your boby under pressure but do also ensure you know how much pressure you're talking about....(Climbing mount Kinabalu and climbing Everest is both climbing mountains...but very different!!)...don't let advance diving skills and techniques cloud your basic understanding.

There is a wealth of knowledge here in the MUW sections so do browse through and search for stuff you'd like to know.....can also ask me la.... ;)

And remember.....people rarely panic when confronted with things they are familiar with, right???
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