Scuba Diving without Fear: Tips & tricks to dive safer and without worrying

Happy scuba diver underwater

Everyone should be able to enjoy scuba diving without fear or anxiety!

Diving underwater dozens of meters deep, coming face to face with sharks and other large animals, and breathing from a small tank that’s the only lifeline underwater can sound intimidating to say the least.

There is absolutely no shame in being afraid or anxious!

However, there are strategies and steps you can take to become a certified diver and overcome your fears.

In this guide to scuba diving without fear, I’ll show you how!

Is it normal to be scared of scuba diving?

Feeling nervous and even a bit of fear before your first scuba dive is completely normal. Entering a new environment can indeed be daunting. However, it is important to deal with the fear and find strategies to overcome it.

Trust me, fear is a completely normal part of human life and it would be very strange if you never felt this way!

As a non-diver

Scuba diving can seem overwhelming and daunting at first. After all, it involves entering a potentially hostile and life-threatening environment.

But fear should never control your actions but push you to respect certain situations even more.

If you want to become a scuba diver and are afraid, the best thing you can do is start!

A good dive instructor can teach you how to scuba dive in a friendly and relaxed environment. You will see that neither dark water, or heavy equipment, nor marine life are ever dangerous for us.

Two divers sitting on plattform
A good dive buddy can be a great help when experiencing fear.

As an experienced diver

Even experienced divers can feel fear or anxiety. This is usually caused by bad experiences and situations in the past or improper training.

If you feel like you had a bad dive and are now afraid of going back in the water or get anxiety just from thinking of a certain dive site…that’s okay!

Relax, breathe, take things slowly.

There is no reason to feel ashamed or give in to peer pressure. You dive whenever you feel ready!

Keep in mind though that in such cases a good dive instructor can help you overcome these issues and make diving fun again. Don’t try to avoid a certain situation because it went bad once.

Instead, analyze what went wrong and why.

Before your next dive, tell your dive guide or instructor about it and they can help you feel better prepared.

Become a better diver, learn to dive without fear, and enjoy your dives way more!

Scuba Diving without Fear

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Common reasons for fear

The most common reasons for fear of scuba diving are claustrophobia, fear of the unknown, and the fear of equipment failure and subsequent drowning. Minor reasons include other phobias of certain animals, or even social pressure.

Claustrophobia

The feeling of being confined in a small space can trigger anxiety. Underwater, the sensation can be amplified, as you’re enclosed by water on all sides.

Fear of the Unknown

Marine life, underwater currents, and the simple mystery of what lies beneath can induce fear.

Equipment Reliability Concerns

The anxiety about equipment failure can be a significant hurdle for many.

Fear of the dark

What?! We jump into dark water?!” – The fear of dark water, for example out in open water, is related to the fear of the unknown.

Once you did a few dives you’ll notice how even the dark water can look beautiful and peaceful once you are underwater.

Social Pressure

The fear of judgment from more experienced divers can create a lot of anxiety.

Happy scuba divers underwater
It’s always better to dive with friends!

Common Questions & Concerns

Let’s look at the questions and concerns we most often hear from beginners, and advanced divers alike.

Is Scuba Diving Dangerous?

Scuba diving is generally considered safe when conducted under proper guidelines. Risks can be minimized by thorough training and following principles of safe diving.

What If My Equipment Fails?

Modern diving equipment is incredibly reliable. It’s designed with multiple safety features, including backup air supplies.

Even in the incredibly rare situation of equipment issues, we always dive with a dive buddy who can help us.

What About Marine Life?

Attacks by marine life are also exceedingly rare. Most underwater creatures are more likely to be scared of you than you are of them.

…and sharks?

The same is true for sharks. They are sometimes curious but more often than not they don’t really care about divers at all.

Read our big shark diving guide for more info on this!

White shark swimming underwater
Sharks are curious and shy creatures that won’t ever try to attack you unprovoked.

Can I Dive If I’m Claustrophobic?

Yes, many people with mild claustrophobia can enjoy diving by taking certain precautions.

Some Statistics on Fear in Scuba Diving

I would like to share some very telling statistics with you that look at panic and other mental distress in scuba diving. They are not aimed at scaring you but rather to show that if you experience anything like this, you are not alone!

54% of experienced recreational divers reported panic while diving (Morgan, 1995)

While this is a rather old statistic, it is as accurate, as ever and remains true. The longer you dive, the higher the probability that you experience panic at one point of your diving life or another.

25-50% of qualified recreational divers have experienced panic or near-panic situations. (Colvard & Colvard, 2003; Morgan, 1995)

This includes divers with at least an Open Water Diver certification or higher.

Incidents reports tell us that those accidents, where mental/behavioural state was mentioned, panic featured in 68% of incidents.

(Davis, Warner & Ward, 2002)

Last but not least, panic, anxiety, and stress have been ranked as one of the top three risk factors for scuba diving incidents (Buzzacott et al., 2009).

So whatever you have experienced, it is completely okay!

Female scuba diver making victory sign
Fear of diving is okay. But you can overcome it!

How fear affects us as divers

Here are some indicators, gestures, and behaviors that divers can use to identify discomfort in themselves and their fellow divers underwater:

  • Fixed stare and widened eyes
  • Increasingly looks up and hesitates
  • Often seeks physical contact, closeness to other divers
  • Has accelerated breathing (recognizable by the air bubbles, and low pressure)
  • Does not respond immediately to hand signals
  • Poor buoyancy which relies on hand and fins movements more & more

It is important to note that some of these behaviors go beyond anxiety and fear and may already indicate a growing panic!

It is often a vicious circle that goes with it:

Fear creates bad situations which leads to even more fear!

Fear of having too little air leads to accelerated breathing. This in turn lowers the tank pressure even faster. The growing fear of running out of air accelerates the breathing even further and can turn into hyperventilation. This makes any kind of breathing very difficult and often results in a full-blown panic underwater.

It is important as divers that we break out of these vicious circles and are able to control our fear and emotions in order to stay safe while diving.

Scuba diver checking pressure underwater
Fear will lead to much higher air consumption.

The 5-Step Approach to mastering any stressful situation

This part is directly taken from my book Scuba Diving Without Fear which gives you A LOT more info and strategies on overcoming the fear of diving!

Here is the 5-step approach I recommend if you ever feel stressed or fearful:

Stop – Stop whatever you are doing and don’t move. In diving, this could mean don’t ascend or descend any further, take your hands off of your BCD and if possible, stop any fin kicking.

Breathe – Take a conscious breath. It may sound simple, but it can be quite difficult to do sometimes. Breathing helps you focus on yourself and reduces stress. Focus on exhaling first, as this is often more difficult than the other way around. Inhaling will happen automatically. This is also helpful to prevent hyperventilation underwater.

Think – Think about what you do or what happens next. Don’t just do something for the sake of it but take your time thinking about the solution. You can also combine this with my “success visualization” approach to come up with a good solution.

Wait – Wait before you take any rash decision. Give yourself a few moments, or even longer, before doing anything. This way, you can be sure you have actually calmed down enough before you try to find a solution.

Act – Carry out your plan. Now that you are relatively calm and composed, it is time to act. Follow your instincts if you have to or stick to the plan you just made.

You can apply this to any stressful situation, even above water, and it has helped me countless times in my life to stay calm and composed in the face of fear or obstacles.

How to overcome fear of scuba diving

To overcome fear of scuba diving, take a diving course and start with simple, shallow dives to build confidence. Utilize deep breathing exercises to manage anxiety during dives and read up on the exact causes of your anxiety or fear.

Overcoming any fear can be tough.

Preparation

The better prepared you are, the less likely you are to be afraid. Complete all required training and familiarize yourself thoroughly with your equipment.

Gradual Exposure

Start with shallow dives in clear, calm waters. Gradually work your way to more challenging environments.

Mental Exercises

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can be highly effective. Breathing exercises, in particular, can help keep your anxiety in check.

Consult Experts

If fear continues to be a problem, don’t hesitate to consult diving experts or even psychologists specialized in phobias and anxiety! Especially in the case of phobias, the root problem is not scuba diving but something entirely different.

Read My Book

My book Scuba Diving Without Fear takes you by the hand to help you overcome your fear of scuba diving or anxieties you have accumulated as a diver. It provides practical strategies backed by years of research and first-hand experiences!

Become a better diver, learn to dive without fear, and enjoy your dives way more!

Scuba Diving without Fear

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Conclusion

It’s possible for anyone to go scuba diving without fear. Even if you feel anxious or afraid now, you can definitely overcome this!

Your dive instructor, guide, or friends can help you here.

If you notice some of your fears have become phobias, you can always seek medical help.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments!

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