Panic Attack

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by bfenne, Aug 2, 2004.

  1. bfenne

    bfenne Angel Fish

    Hello All,

    I wanted to get some feedback on this from a scary situation I experienced. First the details about myself. I am a new diver with approx. 20 dives under my belt both fresh and salt water. I am confident in my skill but not over confident. I am very comfortable in water also. The incident took place at Dutch Springs in PA. I was diving with a group of 10 and one paticular diver about 55-60 years old was new to the group and no one really new his experience, but we did know before we went that his power inflator was broken and he said he felt comfortable with the manual inflation process. So we started the dive, during this dive five of us split off including this gentleman. I was not paired with him but during are dive I kept noticing he was falling back then he pointed to his air which was about 1200psi, I signaled OK, plenty to get back. I kept looking back as we were swiming and noticed he was starting to panic and wanted to blow the surface from about 35-40 ft. I tried to get him to focus on me with no luck and the he started to spit his reg out 2 times. I tried to shove it back in his mouth and purge it but he just spit it out. He took a couple of big gulps of water on the way up then we blew the surface. On the surface he was choking and gasping for air. I started yelling for help and then realized he was negative so I stuck his octopuss in his mouth and start to tow him 50-60 yards to the rock wall were the boat came and got him. He spit up a bunch of water but he is fine and we both live to dive another day.

    Now my concern, the very next day I was on a dive with a very experieced diver on a typical dive in Dutch Springs and all was going great and then out of the blue it came over me like a title wave, my heart was beating like a locomtive, and it felt like I could not get enough air. I had to get out immediatley and wanted to blow the surface from 60ft. I was able to keep my composer and keep myself logical. Barely. I let my buddy know I wanted to head back. When we got I confided in him and told him what I went through and he said he could not tell and I handled very well. I could see that guy's face I resuced the day before, his eyes, the shear terror on his face, gasping for air. I know what he was feeling now. I am worried to get wet again but I will. How to battle this?

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
  2. eab

    eab Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Miami, FL
    My condolences and congratulations. The situation you had to deal with is not one any of us hope to encounter, and you handled it quite well. Good for you, better for the other guy.

    I have a friend who, on her 6th dive, witnessed someone drown. It was very traumatic for her. The problem occurred during an exit while trying to get back on to a boat, and to this day, my friend still suffers panic attacks during rough exits, even on shore dives. I'm not certain it's anything you'll ever forget.

    My advice is to keep diving. Do some easy shore dives, go out with an instructor/class, dive with people who are sensitive to and supportive of your situation. If that seems like too much, talk to your local dive shop and see if you can do a pool dive or two. What you need to do is get your confidence back. Only you will know when that happens.

    Finally, if it is affecting more of your life than your comfort while diving, I suggest you seek professional assistance.

    This is a great place to expres yourself. Keep us abreast of your progress.

    Best of luck.

  3. hantzu701

    hantzu701 SoCal DIR

    You'll prob get a lot of "take it slow," or "take it easy." Seems simple, but it's the same advice for divers in general. If your mind isn't focused on the dive or something doesn't feel right, don't do the dive.

    From the way that you acted underwater, it sounds like you did ok. Rather than feeding off the other diver's panic, you focused on what you could do. Even with the right training, that's not an easy thing to do.
  4. bfenne

    bfenne Angel Fish

    I do reassure my self of that and that is why I don't understand why it affected me the next day the way it did. Thanks for the feedback.
  5. ShakaZulu

    ShakaZulu Great White

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: San Diego, CA
    Don't ever compromise your own safety as a resulf of another divers problems. This way you would be able to assist him/her. You recognized the stress the diver was in an acted. You did very well, inflating his BC would have been good when you reached the surface. At your depth, I assume no saftey stop was required. People react to traumatic experiences differently. If you need to talk to someone about this, call your instructor. Just the fact that you are mentioning this on this board is a step in the right direction. Experience makes you a better diver. You just learned a lesson they don't practise/teach in OW/AOW. How to help the panicked diver........
  6. MikeFerrara

    MikeFerrara Scuba Instructor

    Just take things slow, practice basic skills and dive well within your limits.

    Most importantly...DIVE WITH COMPETENT BUDDIES. The other kind could get you killed especially while you're new.

    You did a fine job of taking care of that diver but try to avoid people and groups that are going to help you get into situations like that. He should never have had started the dive. Some one in the group should have known better. While we should all be able to finish a dive without a power inflator there isn't any sense in starting a dive that way especially since so many divers dive overweighted.

    A new power inflator is like a $20 item. Don't let yourself get in a dangerous situation because some one can't make certain their starting a dive with functioning gear especially when you don't know their skill level. Don't risk your life or worse yet let some one else risk your life because they don't have the skill and common sense to have such simple pieces of gear squared away.

    At this stage of your diving career your choice of buddies can have a really large impact on the direction the rest of your diving takes. Good choices now will pay off 100 fold.
  7. Seadeuce

    Seadeuce Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives:
    Location: Ireland

    Congrats on a job well done with that diver.

    Sounds to me like you were "beating the reg" i.e. overbreathing. This can be caused by several factors, a few:

    You leave the surface too soon. For instance, you quickly follow your buddy down before allowing your breathing to become relaxed after entry to the water.
    Result: you shallow-breathe, leading to CO2 buildup, leading to greater urge for more air than is available at each inspiration. Gasping for air follows.
    Remedy: remain on the surface until your breathing becomes relaxed, then commence descent.

    While diving you hit an unexpected current, or your buddy has gone too far ahead and you have to catch up. Either way, you have to increase your effort in moving through the water, this speeds up the metabolism leading to a greater need for that commodity we call air.
    Result: you begin to overbreathe.
    Remedy: STOP! Remain where you are, preferably in the lee of a large rock, and re-establish your breathing rhythm. You may have to "talk to yourself" (mentally) while this is going on, but your metabolism will slow, and you breathing will return to normal.
    Then, and only then, should you continue to dive/check for your buddy/commence ascent.

    TIP: if you are "beating your reg" i.e. can't get enough air from it, slightly depressing the purge button may give you that bit of extra air to restore your composure.

    Also, some days you may just not feel right while diving. Your breathing/coordination/buoyancy/timing seem to be out of synch.
    We all have such days. Persisting with the dive may only lead to an eventual discomfort with air supply.
    Result: more overbreathing.
    Remedy: if you don't feel right - terminate the dive.

    My main point in all this is that your experience with the panicking diver may have had a much smaller part to play in your subsequent dive than you might think.
    Bet you were well into the sequence of overbreathing before you thought of the previous day's events?

    In any case, I hope you can safely continue to dive. There doesn't seem to be any good reason not to, as you quite obviously have had good training, and did not try to "escape to the surface" when you did overbreathe.

    All the best,

  8. bfenne

    bfenne Angel Fish

  9. SueMermaid

    SueMermaid Humbolt Squid

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: NJ
    I think most of us have a time when we want to bolt to the surface, and are able to squash that with the knowledge we have and calm down. It's nothing unusual.
    You did well in your situation, and can now draw on that experience--you know you can calm yourself if ever you need to again.

    Just wanted to say, when someone is negative on the surface and panicky, inflate their BC first. Makes it easier on both of you.
  10. jiveturkey

    jiveturkey Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ottawa
    To add to what the others have said....

    2. Breathe
    3. Think

    Self rescue starts with these processes. You did great to help that guy and it sounds like you handled your own situation well. If you get into a panic-like situation again, follow those steps. Experienced divers feel overwhelmed at times too. I've read something written by Bernie Chowdhury where he talks about calming himself down during a silt-out in a wreck. It's the same thought process. You switch yourself from instinctive reaction to rational thought.

    As for your fear of getting wet, I'd say get back into the water asap for a shallow, fun, dive with a buddy you know and trust. Stay in a small group and do something fun. Don't challenge yourself in anyway. You'll soon forget your fears.
  11. diverbob

    diverbob Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Imperial MO
    or drop their weights, since you said the power inflator was broke.
  12. murphdivers286

    murphdivers286 Single Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Port St Lucie, Florida

    My wife went through a traumatizing experience of her own. It took her awhile to deal with it. She has never really gotten over it, but she learned to embrace it.

    My suggestion is not to try to get over it, but learn to embrace it and utilize it in the future. Just remember this experience will help you save someone's life one day. Everything happens for a reason.
  13. baitedstorm

    baitedstorm Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Bastrop,Texas
    I found talking about my ordeal with other divers really helped me out alot, members of this board have helped me get through a pretty icky struggle. I think in the long run, you'll be a better diver for this experience. I notice everything and everyone now, I listen and pay very close attention to the conversations that go on before the dive (call it ease dropping, but I want to know what/whom I'm diving with).

    You reacted to this situation in such a manner that you saved this mans life, it doesn't matter what you could have done differently, he is alive today because of you and your quick thinking and ability to react under pressure. That feeling you get (or at least I did), like a little rush of adrenaline, heart starts speeding up and you start looking for up at the surface, it gets harder to breath by the second..... well, it will pass in time. I still do alot of self talking while I'm diving, of course the things I say now are usually about someone breaking a fan, or molesting the creatures, but seriously, it worked for me. I said this little "chant" alot when I first got back into the water, I am the source of all my emotions, Nothing and Noone can change the way I feel except for me, If I find myself reacting to anything, I can change it in an instant .. <---complements of Tony Robbins it might sound a bit foolish to some, but it worked/ and still works for me...

    Best of luck, and just keep wet!
  14. oceancrest67

    oceancrest67 Barracuda

    Good job dealing with the emergency situation.

    Regarding panic or anxiety...take your time, rest, take a break, and when you feel ready then proceed.

    Poorly working equipment is ONE major reason NOT to dive until equipment has been inspected and maintained. Peer pressure, trying to be one of the guys, trying to fit in...or the simple rush because everybody is in the water except you is NO reason to dive with a poorly functioning power inflater or any other malfunctioning piece of equipment.

    I see 'group think' issues take hold all the time...and, it really takes some independence to say...hey, I am calling this dive. The golden rule: A diver can call a dive at any time for any reason.

    Not knowing one's dive buddies is another reason to proceed with caution...I rarely dive with people I do not know...I do not care how much of an expert they claim to be. To me, much of what can happen underwater boils down to the character of your dive they are, how they carry themselves and how they maintain their practices.

    It is much much better to maintain and to avoid any potential for an emergency. Then again...Murphy likes to dive.

    Just my 02.
  15. yknot

    yknot Single Diver

    bfenne- If you really think you suffered a panic attack, seek medical attention immediately. Panic disorders are largly exaggerated by stress, be it accumulated or immediate. I have family members that suffer from panic disorders. If you have one underwater you may not survive-the panic creates urges to do things that logic and a normal thought process can't control. The disorder can be controlled thru medication and there are techniques to controlling stress and managing this condition that should come thru an MD. The advice to take things slow and such is inadequate- this could be a legitimate medical condition that you can't overcome on your own.
  16. sealkie

    sealkie Scuba Instructor

    A few more good dives and the nerves will subside - but as everyone told you - and keep saying this to yourself - you dealt with the situtation extremly well - everyone is alive and well - you did an admirable job especially as a new diver

    Learn what you can from this situtation

    Never go into the water with someone who has broken equipment ( where was this guys buddy anyway ? ) - no matter how many times they tell you they are OK

    You CAN refuse to dive with someone ( this sounds like an organised dive shop trip - was it ?? .... if so why were their DMs not taking care of this new diver with equipment issues ?? )

    Never overweight yourself - staying on the surface in an OOA or broken BC situtation is difficult

    IF someone is having trouble staying on the surface orally inflate their BC OR drop their weights

    You reallly did a good job
  17. Rick Inman

    Rick Inman Advisor ScubaBoard Supporter

    When I first learned to dive in '71, we didn't have any fancy-schamancy power inflators, so I guess I don't see anything wrong diving without one. Unless you never practice without it and you are overweighted, which is what I think Mike is saying.
    I like to do a dive now and then without using the power inflator just to keep in practice, and once you get into the flow of it, it is easy. It also helps you not to overuse your inflator, but use breathing control for most adjustments. On a normal profile, once you hit max depth at the beginning of the dive, you're mostly just letting air out anyway, so it's no big deal. Then, if you're neutral at 15' during the safety stop, a couple of deep breaths and you're up at the surface floating.
    Orally inflating a BC is a basic OW skill we should be able to easily do. My guess is, this gentleman had other issues.
  18. SueMermaid

    SueMermaid Humbolt Squid

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: NJ
    I usually inflate my BC orally, not sure why, it just makes me feel touch with the force.
    Or. something.
    I don't see anything wrong with using a BC with a bad inflator, you should be able to do that. Just thought I'd throw in my two cents on that. :D
  19. MikeFerrara

    MikeFerrara Scuba Instructor

    I agree except that divers usually don't practice diving without a power inflator in OW classes these days. A PADI class for example has them do a fin pivot using oral inflation and esablish pos buoyancy on the surface using oral inflation but that's about it.

    In contrast in tech training most divers must demonstrate that they can actually dive without a power inflator.

    Also the failures that I've seen the most with power inflators is that they leak. Meaning that when the LP hose is connected they leak air into the bc. When disconnected the leak air out which can further complicate things.

    Of course he had other issues.
  20. MikeFerrara

    MikeFerrara Scuba Instructor

    Maybe the thing that gets divers the most is task loading. this was another task.

    As I mentioned in another post, look at the failure modes of an inflator that "doesn't work". If it only means that you have to orally inflate that's one thing but often it will leak air into the bc if the LP hose is connected and leak air out if not. Diving without a power inflator isn't exactly the same as diving with a broken one.

Share This Page