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Overcoming Diving Anxiety

Even for those who are excited to begin scuba diving, learning to do so can be nerve-wracking. What’s the best way to overcome your anxiety and jump in?

For many people, learning to scuba dive is fun and joyful as they breathe underwater for the first time. But for some of us, overcoming diving anxiety can be a real challenge even if we really want to learn. We may have to face overwhelming fears and anxieties that scare us into never leaving the dive center’s changing room.

You can overcome all fears with work and patience. Specific techniques can help even those with acute anxiety achieve their dreams. Here are our top five tips for overcoming diving anxiety.

Try Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy helps people overcome fear and create change in any aspect of life, and it lends itself well to scuba diving. This form of psychotherapy helps the mind learn new responses, behaviors and feelings in situations that previously caused a fear response. The patient is fully aware during hypnotherapy. It is not “mind control,” and it can successfully alter beliefs such as “If I put my face underwater I will drown.”

It can also help with more general anxieties, such as claustrophobia underwater. Undertaking hypnotherapy sessions prior to learning to scuba dive is a great way to understand and start removing your fears, and also to learn relaxation techniques that prevent panic when diving.

Practice Visualization

Professional athletes, highly successful business people and many others use visualization. This simple technique allows the mind to learn new skills and create success by imagining or visualizing an achievement. An example in scuba diving would be overcoming the fear of removing a scuba mask underwater. To do so, a diver would visualize each step while remaining calm and relaxed. Repeat the process many times until the mind has learned how to calmly and fearlessly remove the mask. Visualization can be learned and practiced without assistance at home, during a run, when meditating — any time, really. A wealth of resources and books about visualization will help you choose the best approach for you.

Find the Right Instructor

When you’re ready to take the plunge and commit to a dive course, finding the right instructor is essential. By “right,” we mean someone who the student feels comfortable expressing their anxieties with, who is compassionate, and who will adjust their learning style to the student’s needs. There are many dive centers, ways to learn and instructors in the world. Shop around until you find the right fit. A group vacation may not be the best choice, for example, when it comes to a learning environment. Rather, one-on-one instruction might be the way to go.

Practice Your Skills

This may seem obvious, but skills practice is essential for everyone, not just new divers. Regular practice is a great way to manage ongoing diving anxiety, although experienced divers often think they needn’t review. Complacency can kick in, and that’s not only when old fears can resurface without warning, but also when accidents can happen. A diver who has tackled a fear should occasionally practice the skills that brought on the feeling in the first place. He or she must keep exposing themselves to situations that broaden their dive skills and knowledge. With experience, the mind realizes that there’s nothing to fear in different situations. The body retains muscle memory for skills that can be executed safely in case of panic.


Conquering diving anxiety takes time and effort. If you are reading this as someone who has such fears, it’s important for you to accept that the above techniques all require patience, and it may take some time to become fully comfortable in the water. Keep anxiety levels low by accepting that there may be setbacks along the way, and know that with time and patience you’ll succeed. Also accept that, even as an experienced diver, there may be days you don’t dive because old fears resurface. Just remember the golden rule when it comes to diving, that it’s always okay to cancel a dive, at any time and for any reason. If you’re uncomfortable or something doesn’t feel right, dive another day.