Scuba Diving Panic: How to Keep Cool on Your Dive

scuba diving
6 Dec 2016

Scuba Diving Panic: How to Keep Cool on Your Dive

One of the scariest things for someone just learning scuba diving is the first time you panic underwater.

Truth is, it can happen to anyone. The big difference is that seasoned pros know how to handle it.

Here are 3 tips you can take to help you keep your cool when you’re under the waves.

1. Prevent the panic before you start scuba diving

As with most problems, the best cure is prevention. Now we think scuba diving is something anyone can do. But even we’ll admit – if claustrophobia, anxiety, and panic attacks are all things you’re prone to, then scuba diving might not be for you.

Before you get in the pool and start working on your PADI scuba diving skills, it’s best to get any pre-existing issues under control. Then you can focus on dealing with scuba-specific problems as they come up in a healthy, front-on way.

It’s a bit like starting with a clean slate – it makes whatever you do next a lot easier in the long run.

2. Stop. Think. Act.

Panic is a bit like a train.

Imagine that a freight train is just pulling out of the station when the conductor realized he needed to do an emergency stop. It’s pretty easy – she’d just pull the brake lever.

But what if the same thing happened as the train is rolling along at top speed? It might take a couple of miles to stop.

Panic is a bit like that. If you feel it welling inside you, it’s easier to get a handle on controlling it and making sure your scuba diving goes well if you clamp down early.

If it runs away on you, then you’re going to have a much harder time.

So the first thing to do when you’re scuba diving is stop. Then think. Then act.

Once you’re stopped you can start to think through your panic and work through it with your buddy. Odds are, just taking a minute to breathe will help you get it under control and help you make a decision for how best to proceed.

3. Call a bad dive early

Because panic is more likely if a few things go wrong, something experienced divers excel  at is recognizing when a dive just isn’t in the stars. Sometimes, it’s just a lot of little things that go wrong.

For example, your wetsuit not being your normal wetsuit, having to borrow someone else’s equipment, or even diving with someone new – all these things raise the stress of a dive and can push it over the line into too stressful.

The earlier you can call a bad dive, the better off you’ll be. Even though this can be painful, it’s an essential skill to having a positive diving experience.


Panic is thought to be the leading cause of 20% of diving fatalities, and a contributing factor in many others.

Which is why planning for and controlling panic, both by preventing it from happening in the first place and dealing with it when it does, is so critical to having a safe, successful dive.

Want to get back in the water but are feeling a little rusty? Get in touch to find out all about our range of dive classes!