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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
    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.


    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 Instructor, Scuba

    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
    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 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Kentucky
    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.

    # of Dives:
    Location: Woodinville, WA
    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

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    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!

  7. srhtech

    srhtech Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Houston
    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)
    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.

  9. Teamcasa

    Teamcasa Sr. Moderator Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Near Pasadena, CA
    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 Instructor, Scuba

    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.

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