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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 Instructor, Scuba

    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 Instructor, Scuba

    # 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 Loggerhead Turtle

    # 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 Instructor, Scuba

    # 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.

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