It isn’t uncommon for strangers chime into my conversations when talking about diving. They usually interject with one of those famous questions mentioned in my previous blog, generally starting with “aren’t you scared?” most often times followed up with “I would be terrified. I can’t dive, I am claustrophobic”. Except when I hear that I don’t think yea, you’re right, instead, I think “hmmm challenge accepted”.
It is a myth that all people with claustrophobia can't scuba dive. Depending on severity or triggers, sure, not all people with claustrophobia can scuba dive, but not all people in general can scuba dive either. It isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you should limit yourself because of a condition that can be limiting in other aspects of life.
If you have claustrophobia and are interested in scuba diving, here are seven tips to work around/with it:
- Find a patient instructor. This is important for any course, but especially if you have claustrophobia. Some skills might be a little more challenging or you may require to progress through the course at a slower pace.
- Tell your instructor. Don’t be embarrassed about it! Be sure to notify your instructor prior to any training. As an instructor, we need to be able to prepare for any challenges you might need to overcome.
- Wear a mask that has a clear skirt. A clear silicone skirt allows light penetration through the side of the mask frame giving the illusion of a wider field of vision, eliminating that tunnel vision feeling a black mask can give.
- Focus on what is directly in front of you. By preoccupying your mind, focusing on what is directly in front of you can force your brain to forget that you have a limited field of vision.
- Avoid overhead environments. Overhead environments can vary in size and restriction. An overhead environment may induce a claustrophobic attack which could potentially result in panic underwater. If diving with claustrophobia, be sure to avoid wrecks, caves, coral swim-throughs and instead, stay in open water.
- Immediately tell your instructor or buddy if you are uncomfortable. By notifying your instructor or buddy when you are uncomfortable, we can help prevent panic by maintaining contact and focus. Your buddy or instructor can also assist you in making a slow, safe ascent to end your dive.
- Try a full face mask. A full face mask has a much larger surface area and field of vision which can be comforting to a diver with claustrophobia.
Ready to take on scuba? Send us a message to book your course today at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on diving with phobias or anxieties check out the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) at http://www.diversalertnetwork.org/.