Common Scuba Diving fears and advice for overcoming them!

I can say without doubt that there is never a dull day when doing my job as a Scuba Instructor. No 2 days are the same, just as no 2 dives are the same. A lot of what makes it enjoyable, and sometimes surprising, are the people I get to meet everyday. People from all over the world, from professional divers to those who want to try diving for the first time. From children as young as 8, to people in their 70’s, each with their own unique story and personality. Answering people’s questions, calming their nerves and addressing their fears is a huge part of my job. Everyone has their own different reasons for wanting to dive, and with that their own fears. There are a few topics that do come up very often though and below I go through the most popular diving fears.

Scuba diving fears

I’m on my period, will I attract sharks?

This one is a much more common fear in Scuba diving than you would believe, and being a woman I get a lot of other anxious females quietly whispering this question in my ear. I have heard the “fact” that sharks can detect a drop of blood in an Olympic sized swimming pool, so it’s not surprising some ladies have genuine concerns about diving on their periods. First of all, I always let them know that I don’t get special days off on my period and I have yet to see any shark circling me during that time of the month, and I have dived with Bull Sharks while on my period. Secondly, what we actually lose during our period is very little blood, combined with cells and body fluids. Of that, a very small amount actually gets into the water. Whilst it’s thought sharks can detect this small amount of blood, they just aren’t interested. They are clever creatures, and are on the lookout for specifically fish blood! We are not their food source, and so they just don’t bother about our teeny drops of blood!

Scuba shark fear

I’m scared that I will run out of air whilst diving

Another really common and highly understandable fear. Descending under metres of sea water with only the air on your back supporting you is a strange concept really. Just the thought of that air running out can fill some people with serious anxiety. It’s not an irrational fear, but it is something you need to put into perspective. You have an air gauge, so unless it is faulty, which is highly unlikely, then you always know what’s going on inside the tank! The other side to this though, is sometimes the fear takes over and people spend more time looking at their gauge than at the fish around them. Look often, but don’t spend the whole dive glued to the air gauge.

Another thing I see often is people panicking when their air gets into the agreed reserve during the dive. Some people have even signalled out of air when they have 700 psi left. This is the reserve, you are not out of air! Unless you are doing a really deep dive, 700 psi is more than enough to take you up to a safety stop and out of the water. The problem with people becoming concerned when they are low on air, is that they become anxious and consequently breathe quicker!

You also have a buddy, who should be very close to you at all times, so you can easily share air if you really do run out. You train for these situations during your open water, so if it really is a huge fear, go through out of air procedures with your buddy for practice to calm your nerves a little.

 I’m scared of the equipment failing

This fear manifests itself in many questions from the dramatic “what if the tank explodes underwater?” to the kind of obvious “what if my fin falls off?”. In answer to the first – it’s highly unlikely, but if you worry about that kind of thing, make sure you are always using a reputable company who regularly inspect their tanks and have them tested. Which is kind of the answer to most equipment fears. If your dive centre is trying to pass off dodgy looking equipment that looks like it’s come straight from 1985, then you are more than justified in your fears. In an ideal world, you would have your own equipment that is serviced regularly. However, if you have to rent, look for obvious signs of wear and tear, and ask the owners how often it’s serviced.

During your open water course, you are trained to deal with many equipment failure possibilities. Remember breathing from a free flowing regulator? That’s because most modern regulators, if they have an issue, will free flow as opposed to just stop giving you air. You know how to breathe from that free flowing regulator and get yourself up to the surface. If your inflator button gets stuck, you should know how to easily disconnect the inflator hose to stop any uncontrolled ascent. Mask fallen off? You know how to swim slowly and calmly to the surface without one. In reality, equipment failure contributes to very few diving accidents, and if it concerns you consider taking refresher style courses to keep your knowledge on how to deal with problems updated.

Scared of scuba

I am scared that I will get lost whilst Scuba Diving

Another common fear in diving, many people ask me “what happens if I get lost?”. Luckily, the answer is an agency (PADI) standard and therefore should be the same worldwide – look around for a minute then ascend slowly to the surface, without a safety stop.

The thought of suddenly finding yourself 30 metres down and not being able to see another human can really scare people whilst diving, however you just have to remember, you’re never more than 2 minutes away from the surface. Even in awful visibility, you can easily figure out which way is up by using your computer, or even just watching your own bubbles. Chances are, your Divemaster is going to be more panicked at the thought of losing you than vice versa! So do them a favour, stay close enough so we can see and if you do get lost, follow the standard procedure!

I’m scared of wrecks

This one a quite unique fear I heard. It was a young girl doing her advanced course, and I recommended taking the wreck adventure dive as part of the course. She kind of half heartedly agreed but I didn’t think too much of it. When we got to the site I started briefing her on the dive ahead, drawing the wreck, explaining the layout etc. Then she turned to me and said “I’m really scared of wrecks”. I reassured her that we absolutely wouldn’t be going inside the wreck, just swimming around the outside. This didn’t do much to calm her nerves though. She went on to tell me it wasn’t anything about going inside or a problem with claustrophobia. It was more that she was freaked out that there was a boat under the water and it was bigger than her. It was certainly a unique fear, but I told her to give the dive ago and if she didn’t like it we would leave the wreck. As the shadow cane into view on our approach, she looked super nervous, but she continued with the dive and told me afterwards it wasn’t so bad!

More commonly, people are scared of the idea of penetrating a wreck. Unless you’re wreck specialty certified, then you shouldn’t be doing his anyway. Many times when I mention a wreck in dive briefings whilst working in Malta, it’s sends a wave of panic through the group. Will it collapse on us? What if I can’t see anything inside? Maybe I’ll find a skeleton sat at a desk in some hidden room? My answer is: we are not even going inside so calm down.

If you are diving a wreck, make sure you really understand the dive plan – is it the Divemaster intention for the group to penetrate the wreck? If you’re not sure, ask! And if you’re not comfortable, say so!

dive blue hole gozo

I’m scared that my mask will flood

I hear this a lot more than I can believe sometimes. It really shouldn’t be the source of any fear in Scuba Diving. When you take your Open Water course you are made to do lots of mask skills, and you should have been repeating the skills until you are totally comfortable. That means swimming around underwater with no mask on shouldn’t cause you to panic, let alone a tiny trickle inside the mask.

If you know that you are worried about water in the mask, it’s not a good idea to try to sweep this fear under the carpet. Consider taking a refresher course, or ask your buddy or dive guide if you can practice some mask skills in the shallows before diving. Waiting until you’re 20 metres deep and realising you have no idea how to clear your mask of water is a recipe for disaster. It is worth remembering though that you can, and do, breathe perfectly fine with out a mask on. You don’t breathe through your eyes, so if your mask floods or breaks, just remember you can still breathe!

Have any other fears to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

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