Panic Attack

Discussion in 'Near Misses and Lessons Learned' started by srhtech, Sep 2, 2008.

  1. srhtech

    srhtech Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Houston
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    Well I never thought I would have this problem. This was my 10th dive. We where diving with Scubatek out of Destin, FL. I was all ready for this dive was my first saltwater dive and my deepest dive yet. I jump in the water start to decend. There was a cool little shark watching everyone go down. I was second person on the line going down. At about 20' my new Mares Demon mask is leaky so I clear and contiune the decent. Kept clearing my mask on the way down about every minute. . Got to about 70' cleared mask again and when I opened my eyes I felt confused. I started breathing reall heavy. I finished the decent to 86' then I couldn't slow my breathing down I had just got off the line so I immediatly made it back to the line. MY mind was telling me to surface immediatly. I was in complete panic mode. I was calming my self down thinking alright don't get in a big hurry and don;t go faster than your bubbles just go to the top. so I came up to about 70' got calmed down and though what the hell is wrong with me, then decided to go back down. I went back down and the DM was there he signaled if I was ok. I signaled back that I was not. He grabbed a hold of me and I finished the dive along side of him. This was really an awful feeling. It felt like I was going to die. After the dive I still had this shaky feeling. I have never had anything like this happen. I have done all sorts of things in life that could cause someone to panic but it has never happend to me.

    I made the next dive (with a differant mask) but was very slow on the decent and had to hang on the line for awhile before swimming off. The panic kept trying to come up and had to take my time to hold it back. This dive was to 70'. After I finalyl got over the panic I felt great better than usual. The dive master left my sdie and Iwas diving along with my wife. We where checking out soem fish and differant things then the DM came back to get us for the accent and as soon as I saw him the panic feeling started coming back. Got back to the rope and made our accent with out any problems.

    Made 2 more dives this sa,e day to Vortex springs. First dive I as still feeling un-easy dive was at aound 30' depth. Sencond dive at Vortex was better I started relaxing more but still had that feeling deep down in side of me.

    I can still feel the same panicky feeling now thinking about diving. I already have a Costa Rica trip planned for November and I really want to be able to get past this. I am planning on diving the next few weekends to see if I can get comfortable again.

    I am very thankful for the DM at Scubatek. His name was "Sharky" if not for him and my wifes encouragment I don't know if I would have made the second dive. Which was great once I got comfortable. he did a great job staying by me helping me get comfortable in the water.


    This thread almost describes the exact thing that I felt.

    http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/ne...ed-panic-attack-100-feet-lessons-learned.html


    Has anyone else had this problem and how do you get past this. It was an awful feeling I can now see how people can die from panic. Your mind is trying to tell you to take off all your gear and just rush for the surface. It doesn't even make sence to me that this would happen, especially to me. I never had any hessitation about diving or anything else. I am just glad that I held it together and didn't run for the surface or do anything stupid. I am wondering if perhapse being narced played into this once at depth from my heavy breathing because I do not remember coming off the line on that first dive after I came back down. I remember looking down at the bottom through my watery mask and feeling panicked again and I remember tapping the DM to tell him that I was not ok and grabbing hold of his bc. Then I was just consentrating on staying calm. I don't know if I was thinking that water was about to start coming in my reg or something but I was defiantly not comfortable. It is very weird to me. Any help would be appreciated.
     
  2. Walter

    Walter Scuba Instructor

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    You did not have a panic attack. You were scared, you kept under control and you took rational actions to keep from becoming panicked. Good job!

    How fast was your descent? Fast descents contribute to bad trips on narcosis.

    You say:

    That's never a good idea. Slow deep breaths are the key to staying calm.

    Good choice.
     
  3. srhtech

    srhtech Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Houston
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    I did make quite a fast decent on the first dive. I was ready to get to the bottom and check it out. I hit the water singnaled ok, pulled my self under water the to anchor line and started going down. Never slowed or looked back. Next thing I really knew was I was at 70' and my mask was filling and I was thinking oh crap I am deep and this mask sucks.

    I guess the natural reaction is to start breathing heavy or something cause it all started happening really fast. I think I even yelled into my reg like that was going to help.

    Another thing I am thinking about doing besides just diving more is sitting on a platform or something and just sit there not doing anyhting except breathing calmly and staying comfortable.

    This is probably the scariest experience I have ever had in my whole life.
     
  4. tstormdiver

    tstormdiver Tech Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Kentucky
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    I second the idea of speed of descent to how badly narcosis can affect you, the cold doesn't help either. I find that the speed of my descent can greatly affect how Narc'd I get. It drives my buddies crazy, but I just let myself come down nice & slow & am usually just fine when I get to the bottom. I dive deep, fresh water quarries a lot & how narcosis affects me can be different each time. I can do the same dive 3 times & one time I will get a little narcosis, the next time none & the third time be narc'd out of my skull. It tends to hit me also as an uneasy feeling, sometime almost claustrophobic. It has yet, never sent me into a panic, but close a couple of times when I had some major task loading at depth. Instead of panicking, I usually just abort the dive, ascend slowly & regroup myself on the surface, then try to tackle the problem again on another day. It has worked well so far.
     
  5. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many.

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    It was your tenth dive, your first salt water dive, and your deepest dive to date. That's a lot of stress right there, even before you get in the water. If most of your diving before had been in the 30 to 40 foot range, you hadn't had a chance to know what narcosis was going to do to you.

    Then you add the stress of a leaking mask. Now, I have about 600 dives and I'm cave certified, and I don't like diving with a leaking mask. I cope with it just fine, but it is still a stressor, and stress is cumulative when you are diving. As a very new diver, the stress of clearing your mask repeatedly is much more significant, because there's a higher baseline level of stress just from being underwater.

    In addition, I wonder if your need to clear the mask constantly contributed to an inefficient breathing pattern that allowed you to build up some excess CO2. High CO2 levels are a prime trigger for intense anxiety and apprehension, because your body knows at a deep level that, if you aren't moving enough air per minute, you aren't going to live long. That's the reason most people can't hold their breath long enough to pass out -- the body just won't let you do it. CO2 is additive to nitrogen in causing narcosis, as well, and the combination will just about always produce what's called a "dark narc", or a very unpleasant experience of anxiety or dread.

    Now you're spooked, and apprehensive even before you get in the water, which isn't good.

    The answer is to do some shallow, simple dives, going only where your comfortable and with companions who inspire confidence. Maybe that's just going to be floating in a spring or quarry in ten feet of water, but it is what it is. Focus on regaining your confidence and relaxing, and when that little voice in the back of your head stops trying to tell you you're going to feel the same way you did during these dives, that's the time to try something a little bit more challenging. But I would highly recommend not trying a 90 foot dive for your first open ocean experience. That's just asking a bit too much of a brand new diver, in my book.
     
  6. Web Monkey

    Web Monkey Omniheurist ScubaBoard Supporter

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    FWIW, once you decide the dive is over, it should stay that way. Letting other people (including the DM) convince you to go back down is almost always a bad idea. If you cancel the dive, you can sort things out on the surface and get everything ready to have a great time on the next dive.

    Breathing hard can be caused by an improperly adjusted or poorly performing regulator, a tank that isn't turned on all the way, overly tight equipment like wetsuits and weightbelts or anxiety. Unfortunately, breathing hard can also cause anxiety and panic, which causes you to breathe hard. :D

    The next time you go diving, consciously check to see if anything you're wearing is making it more difficult to breathe It doesn't need to be killing you to be a problem, it only needs to be uncomfortable.

    You can also ask the instructor or DM if you can share air with them for a minute at depth to see what a regulator should breathe like. Chances are excellent that they'll be using properly working equipment. If theirs breathes a lot easier than yours, getting your reg fixed/adjusted will make a huge difference. A lot of people are diving with regs that are hard-breathers because they don't know what a good one breathes like.

    It's like the old Henny Youngman joke: Q:"How's your wife?" A:"Compared to what?"

    If it's anxiety, the solution is to do more dives that you're comfortable with until you decide that a little deeper isn't a problem. It's the same way you went from a 12' pool to a 20' OW checkout dive when you were certified.

    If your mask still leaks, ask for help. Some masks contain purge valves that can get clogged and leak, or it's possible that it isn't fitting your face quite right and needs adjusting.

    In any case, diving does get better, just take it slow and enjoy!

    Terry
     
  7. srhtech

    srhtech Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Houston
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    The reg (Apex XTX) breathes good it was all because of anxiety that I was breathing heavy. I was getting plenty maybe too much air. One thing I should have concentrated more on was making sure to exhale more.

    I will surely take another dive this weekend and probably just go sit on a training platform and breathe a tank or half tank of air. I am just hoping that this is something that will pass and not be permanent.

    Somethings that are good to know is that eye to eye contact with the DM helped alot. Also contact with DM help also to get me settled down. I am still not sure what it was exactly that made me scared. I wish I knew what it was exactly that triggered my reaction. It was quite a helpless feeling and I don't think I will be the same until I over come it.
     
  8. spectrum

    spectrum Dive Bum Wannabe ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: The Atlantic Northeast (Maine)
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    I so like the words of the woman from Washington State that I shall take them as my own...... Hey it works for them on C-SPAN!

    In other words, good job on holding it together but walk before you run.

    Pete
     
  9. Teamcasa

    Teamcasa Sr. Moderator Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
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    Don’t underestimate how stressful a leaky mask can be. This alone is a huge stressor and can cause the onset of panic. Dive again, more shallow, like 30’-50’ with a mask that does not leak. You will be surprised how easy it is to get comfortable when your mask does not leak.

    Once you are 100% comfortable and feel completely secure and confident, then venture to deeper sites. There is no hurry to go deep except in new divers. Many new divers for some reason want to push the depth limits as soon as possible. Believe me, there is no hurry. Most of the really good stuff is above 60’ anyway!
     
  10. Walter

    Walter Scuba Instructor

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    It can be, but it doesn't have to be. If it's more than a minor annoyance, that's an indication that you need to practice no mask breathing.
     
  11. srhtech

    srhtech Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Houston
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    Well I will eat my words now. We went diving this weekend to a local spot. First decent I didn't feel good again. I had fixed the mask but I still just wasn't feeling comfortable, so I thumbed us to the surface. At the surfaced I was checking over all my gear to figure out my problem. I looked closer at my regulator and relized that I had adjusted it backwards. I had the it turned all the way to the negative side. I adjusted it all the way positive and we went back down. I must say that I was having much more fun once I could breathe. It's weird that I didn't know that the air supply was my problem. I guess it is not a natural feeling to have a resistance on your breathing. Well after turning it all the way up I was getting too much but too much is definatly better than not enough, so with a little tweaking I was feeling alot better under water.

    The second issue that I noticed I was having was decending in the middle water column where you can not see the bottom. I chose for us to dive at this particular location because the visibility is not very good. I have never had a problem when I could see the bottom on the way down. I think it is because I can not tell how fast I am decending. To correct this I started to monitor my computer on the way down so that I can tell how fast my decent is, once the bottom comes into view I get more comfortable.

    I am just happy that all is well again and it was not jsut a mental issue that was my problem. I think a few more local dives and I'll be ready to get back out in the ocean again real soon.

    Thank you everyone for your input. This reminds me that I need to take all of the suggestions into account without brushing them off because I think that I know better.
     
  12. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many.

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    srhtec, here's a tip for those free descents: Focus on the particulates in the water. Especially in low viz conditions, there will be lots of stuff you can see. The particulates generally sit at the same depth, so if you are plummeting down past them, you know you are descending fast; if they're barely moving upward, you know you're descending slowly. Don't forget that your ears are also a good gauge -- The more frequently you feel the need to equalize, the faster you are descending.
     
  13. El Jefe

    El Jefe Divemaster

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Scottsdale, AZ
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    Congratulations on holding yourself together. As stated before, once you get re-acclimated at shallower depths, you will be ready once again to try some deeper dives. There are plenty of shallow ocean dives that IMO are better (more bottom time, more color, more fish) then many of the deeper dives I've been on.
     
  14. Dwag766

    Dwag766 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Wellington, FL
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    I don't think your experience was unusual.....I become uneasy and annoyed when my mask leaks. But the more frequently I dive the less stressed I become. Stick with it and don't forget to enjoy the beautiful scenery while down there!

    :)
     
  15. Bonairetrip

    Bonairetrip Barracuda

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    I like to start by emphasizing both postings from TSandM as well as these gems from WebMonkey:

    "The next time you go diving, consciously check to see if anything you're wearing is making it more difficult to breathe It doesn't need to be killing you to be a problem, it only needs to be uncomfortable.

    You can also ask the instructor or DM if you can share air with them for a minute at depth to see what a regulator should breathe like. Chances are excellent that they'll be using properly working equipment. If theirs breathes a lot easier than yours, getting your reg fixed/adjusted will make a huge difference. A lot of people are diving with regs that are hard-breathers because they don't know what a good one breathes like."

    Task loading is a real thing -- and managing tasks (and priorities) is one of the most important aspects of diving. Can you remember the first time you drove a car? How nervous were you? You had to remember to watch the road in front. Your gauges. Your RV mirror. Your side mirrors. Signage. Stuff to the sides. Now, how many of those tasks do you do at a concious level?

    Now, could you tell if your car was working well? Was it braking differently than normal? Did the engine seemed bogged down? Was the steering getting sloppy? Any strange noises? I'll bet that, for your car, you are pretty aware if something isn't just right.

    So here is my observation about prevention:
    a) Be sure your gear is in great working order, fits well, and that it is put together (and adjusted) correctly. That means everything.
    b) Minimize task loading, and then add more tasks incrementally. Most of these have been covered but there are some subtle ones (first time at a new dive site, with a new dive buddy, first time from shore, first time from a boat, waves, temp, carrying a camera, any new piece of equipment, bad viz, current, lots of swimming, trouble with any basic skill such as clearing mask or ears, etc.).
    c) get some more dives in a supervized setting. Think shallower and more mellow.
     
  16. LarryHinDC

    LarryHinDC Surface Interval Member

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Washington, DC, USA
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    You've received lots of good advice here. But I have a question: where was your buddy in all this? Maybe I missed it, but it sounds like you were descending on your own, decided to call the dive and ascend to 70' on your own, and listened to the DM to continue the dive, all without consulting your buddy.

    In addition to all the other advice you've received, I'd suggest maintaining contact with your buddy at all times will help you feel less stressed since you'll realize that there is someone RIGHT THERE who can help you if need be.

    Good luck. More experience helps you maintain your calm.
     
  17. thevalkyry

    thevalkyry Queen of the Turtles

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Dallas, TX
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    Reading this makes me wonder about the difference between panic and anxiety.

    I dont do heights well and always have low-level anxiety, but got side-swiped by full on thumping heart and cold sweat when I went to the top of Gibraltar. I could still think and walk - and only my travel buddy knew something was wrong when I made a bee-line for the safety of the glass enclosed gift shop where I could relax - once I am behind glass then I feel 'safe'.

    But I was trying to do a unconscious diver rescue in the pool not long ago as part of my Stress & Rescue class. It was an out of air situation and I was having to manually inflate the BC under water. I lost my regulator, got a mouth full of water, and remember the moment when my brain just shut down with the exception for the thought that I knew if I could just GO UP I would have air. So I bolted for the surface.

    I would call one anxiety and one panic. Anxiety can be managed, but can you really come back from panic once it has its claws into you??

    To quote my old boss, "Thoughts, questions, comments, concerns, or emotional outbursts?"
     
  18. cowdog77

    cowdog77 Barracuda

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    "I already have a Costa Rica trip planned for November and I really want to be able to get past this."
    _______________________
    What kind of dive trip do you have planned for Costa Rica? Are you going to do a liveaboard or land based?
     
  19. kamilla

    kamilla Guest

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    70 metres????????????????????????????????// i dive in the red sea where its allowed only 30m some wreck are at 55metes 60metres
     
  20. Kaltim Diver

    Kaltim Diver Angel Fish

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    Firstly, Kamilla - 70 feet, not metres.

    Secondly, what you are describing sounds exactly like my narcosis. Many people talk about the euphoric feeling - I get freaked out and think "just get me to the surface". Luckily the first time it happened I'd already had quite a few dives before I went to 30m+. Then I thought it was just a faulty reg, but after a tech diving course I found it was due to narcosis, and usually came on after something else had happened - i.e. simulating free flow reg at 40m, out of air etc. Stress set off the narcosis. Luckily also for me if I can keep it together long enough it passes, also if I do frequent deep dives the effects seem to lessen or not occur at all.

    Hope it all turns out well in Costa Rica.

    KTD
     

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