• Welcome to the DeeperBlue.com Forums, the largest online community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing. To gain full access to the DeeperBlue.com Forums you must register for a free account. As a registered member you will be able to:

    • Join over 44,280+ fellow diving enthusiasts from around the world on this forum
    • Participate in and browse from over 516,210+ posts.
    • Communicate privately with other divers from around the world.
    • Post your own photos or view from 7,441+ user submitted images.
    • All this and much more...

    You can gain access to all this absolutely free when you register for an account, so sign up today!

Beginners and Panic attacks

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
It can take a long time to get an up-to-date response or contact with relevant users.


New Member
Jul 1, 2002
I am in the process of training for SCUBA and was wondering about the propensity for beginners to suffer "panic attcks". To be more specific, I will define "panic attack" as an overwhelming total fear and helplessness of where you are and what you are doing.
I ask, because I suffered one during my first open water dive for certification. It was an overwhleming feeling, and basically caused me to pratically forget all of my training. Luckily it was only a 20-30ft dive, or I think I could have gotten myself into alot of trouble.

Eventaully I calmed down enough to make it through the rest of the dive, sucking up way to much air, but was so flustered and freaked out that I didn't dive the rest of the trip.

Anyone else have similar beginner experiences? Any advice on overcoming it?
practice, practice, practice...

Although I'm strictly a freediver, a similar expereince happened to me when I was in college (more years ago than it really seems).

Had gone scuba diving once or twice in high school in shallow water (10-15') with a friend and thought I knew all about scuba. A couple of years later, when my college roommates were diving at a local sinkhole, I invited myself to go with them. The sink was about 100' deep but pitch black until it got clearer at the bottom (or so I was told). Donned the tanks and started descending. As soon as I got probably no more than 15 feet into the dark water, I began hyperventilating uncontrollably. I tried to relax but to no avail - the total darkness was freaking me out. I surfaced and calmed down and then tried again - but with the same result. After the standard name calling and harrassing from my roommates, I called it quits. Thinking back, that was the last time I tried scuba (not because of this experience though - I don't think).

When I started freediving several years ago, still didn't like the dark water but just kept going a little deeper each time and taking it slow.

Fast forward now to the present: three weeks ago I was back in my college town (Tallahassee) and was diving in a sink very similar to the one mentioned above. With a depth guage and a flashlight, I took my last breath and headed toward the bottom (this was my first trip to this sink and I didn't know how deep it was). Turned out it was only about 60' but I had no fear at all (well, maybe just a little) on my first dive into the darkness of this sink. Dove it for about an hour and had a great time (viz with a light got pretty good at 50').

It was a much different experience from 20 years (oops) ago and all it took was practice, practice, practice...

Re: practice, practice, practice...

When I started freediving several years ago, still didn't like the dark water but just kept going a little deeper each time and taking it slow.

It was a much different experience from 20 years (oops) ago and all it took was practice, practice, practice...

The other possibility, Scott, is that after 20 years of holding your breath, you no longer have enough brain cells to be appropriately fearful . . .

[Just kidding . . . I couldn't resist when I saw your name in the scuba forum]
Much more intelligent now!


Actually, at least according to a concurrent thread going on, freediving has made me more intelligent.

However, you may have a point. The intervening years between scuba and freedivng (15+) could be the culprit. Imagine if I didn't begin freediving :duh .

hi i am a newbie but i dont see the fun in free diving cause you cant stay down as long as you can when scuba diving.....

enlighten me?
Random - were you wearing a wetsuit? was the neck overly tight? I've had a few students suffer from CSR Carotid Sinus Reflex. Sometimes it's just a feeling of nausa, other times it a very panicy feeling.

most of the time it just involves getting them a bigger hood.

Different strokes

hi i am a newbie but i dont see the fun in free diving cause you cant stay down as long as you can when scuba diving..... enlighten me?

First off, freediving isn't for everyone. It is much more athletic than scuba diving, and that is a put-off to some who like recreation to be a little less taxing.

Second, for most freedivers, it isn't just the down time that matters . . . it is the feeling of freedom in and connectedness to the underwater world that we like. You don't find that when your physiology is connected to compressed gas and your navigation dependent upon buoyancy compensators. Besides that, the cumbersome tanks, the roaring regulators and the distraction of constant bubbles seems for many of us to be restricting rather than enabling. A freediver has a better chance of becoming part of the environment (ask spearos), even though it is interrupted by the need to surface regularly (but dolphins and whales surface too).

Third, I am not sure you are comparing down-time fairly. A freediver in decent condition can do repetitive dives of :45 underwater time / 1:15 surface interval for hours on end (those in good condition can do even better). That's about 22.5 minutes down per hour, and over 8 hours, that's 3 hours underwater. A free-diver's prep time involves throwing his fins, mask, snorkel and wetsuit in a bag and heading to the water. A scuba diver has to fill tanks, haul many pounds of gear to and from the water, etc., not to mention the expense of purchasing and maintaining all that gear, and buying air. If you compare down time based on the total time you devote to the dive, I think you would find a more favorable ratio for freediving.

But to each his own. I'll grant you there are many parts of the underwater world where a freediver can't go that a scuba diver can.

P.S. Other freedivers - Scott and I included - freedive mainly for the IQ boost - keeps us at the peak of our respective professions.
Last edited:
thank you very much for the explanation...as for me i choose scuba diving
Panic and tight wetsuits

Random - were you wearing a wetsuit? was the neck overly tight? I've had a few students suffer from CSR Carotid Sinus Reflex. Sometimes it's just a feeling of nausa, other times it a very panicy feeling.

Great point about the tight neck on a wetsuit. I'm the surfing type and grew up in and on the ocean all my life and have very high comfort level in the ocean under nearly any conditions. Learning to dive was great, but when I got my own gear my wetsuit neck was too tight, and gusees what? My comfort level was gone. I dove a few times with that suit, each dive getting worse. Nausia, sea sickness, air consumption out of controll, general feeling of miserableness. I got into a bigger suit but had a problem with all the hoods I tried. My neck and upper body are bigger than the rest of me. I wear a large suit, and that was fine, but had to go ta an XXL Hooded vest to aacomodate my neck. A hole in the top of hood fixed the fact that the head part was too big. Now, I'm comfortable again!

Check your wetsuit fitting, Random, and make sure there is NO pressure on your neck. It makes a huge difference with me, and may help you too.
Hey Narky! Just thought I would add my 2 cents. When I started with scuba, I swore I'd never use a snorkle again. Now after years as an instructor and fully 'immersing' myself in the scuba world, I feel like I've come full circle. Sometime during those scuba years I was introduced to freediving in the Bahamas. It grabbed me. Ever since, I have actively pursued both types of diving. Within the last few years I have moved from just enjoying it on my own with little knowledge, to becoming educated about freediving and meeting people who share the same interest.

Cjborgert is absolutely right about the freedom and connectedness with the water. Now I prefer to freedive, but still use scuba when I have to. Freediving becomes a very spiritual and personal thing. It's not the time underwater that matters. It's making the water your home as opposed to a foreign place that you visit.

Regardless of whether you scuba or freedive the ocean is an amazing place. Hope you continue to enjoy it.


Panic Attacks

about 2 weeks ago my dive buddy had what she later thought was a panic attack. the problem was that it happened at 26m.
just after completing our decent, i swam up to her. she looked a bit upset and signaled that there was something wrong with her mask, then she signaled that her air was a problem as well. i checked her gauge, which was fine (200 bar), but she was getting more and more upset, so we started our accent, whilst i was trying to keep her calm and make sure she was breathing. fortunately the dive instructor was close by and he saw her distress right away, and took over the ascent. she made the surface without injury, but she was very very upset.
so how did it happen? she was not a complete novice, she had done her scuba 1 course, done a few dives after that and was on the advanced open water when she had her attack. the problem was that she had psyched herself out before she had even got into the water, because the whole morining she was saying that she wasnt going to dive. a friend convinced her to try, so she did. fortunately nothing went wrong, but a lot could have.
so dont dive unless you feel 100%.

ps. scuba is like diving with blinkers on, its too hard to swing around with all that gear on. freediving gives you a much better view of the surroundings. i only did the scuba course so that i could dive 20-30m. if i ever get good enough to freedive those depths, then i dont see any need for scuba.
Panic attack

I also suffer a panick attack, and I haven´t dive since then. It was more than one year ago, and it was one of my first dives after getting my open water certification. I think the problem was that the boat was overloaded and I forgot my seasickness pills, so when we arrived to the diving spot, I felt completely sick, but as I thought that if I wait over the boat I just was going to die, I decided to dive. In the first moment it was good, but after a while, began to feel seasick again (under the water, I didn´t know it was possible!), and then I panicked and I went up without caring for anything, afortunately I wasn´t very deep. There was so many people that I think the divemaster didn´t realized that I had problems!

Another problem is that I made the course in the Red Sea (imagine, warm water, colour fishes all around), and since the few dives I had were in the Mediterranean (cold and dark water). I think I´m a warm water diver!
I want to dive again, as when I did my course I really liked it, but since then I haven´t had very good experiences, so I´m a little bit afraid and a little more lazy about it.:waterwork
panic attacks

The scuba gear can make you feel constricted; on one of my dives, a lady ascended because she felt she couldn't breathe. She surfaced and began to take off her gear. When we had all surfaced, we found that she had dropped her weights in the water. Even though some things went wrong, I thought it was a good experience because I found that I performed well under stress. I guess that's part of it; if circumstances change drastically, it can be frightening.
DeeperBlue.com - The Worlds Largest Community Dedicated To Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing


ISSN 1469-865X | Copyright © 1996 - 2024 deeperblue.net limited.

DeeperBlue.com is the World's Largest Community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving, Ocean Advocacy and Diving Travel.

We've been dedicated to bringing you the freshest news, features and discussions from around the underwater world since 1996.