Diving and panic

Fear and panic during diving – not only beginners are confronted with this topic. We have compiled some advice on what you can do about panic under water.

Stress, fear and panic are topics that are still all too happily neglected by divers. In diving instructor training courses, they are only treated briefly, if at all. In diving courses, they are talked about even less. After all, the instructors do not want to "scare off" their students. This is a mistake often made in the world of diving. We ignore unpleasant topics when we should approach them head-on to prevent diving accidents.

Here you can see what a diver who panics under water looks like: https://youtu.be/dnWKS5DzKRU (Source: youtube)


What are signs that a diver experiences panic (or stress) under water?


  • stay back from their group/buddy without any apparent reason or stay very close
  • show no or only a very delayed reaction to their buddy
  • move uncontrollably or suddenly (for instance flip their fins very fast)
  • breathe fast (you will see a lot of bubbles coming from the regulator)
  • check their equipment very often and in an uncoordinated way
  • have their eyes wide open
  • have a fixed gaze, generally to the surface

What can I do to help my buddy?

  • establish physical or visual contact
  • look for a way to calm them down (take their hand, give them the OK sign, make eye contact, prevent them from taking out their regulator)
  • check whether there is an apparent reason for their panic
  • end your dive early and safely, try to get the panicked diver to the surface as calmly as possible

How can I prevent panic?

  • practise standard situations under different circumstances
  • do targeted breathing exercises (e.g. breathe from your diaphragm)
  • practise emergency situations regularly
  • familiarise yourself with your equipment
  • clearly express fears and concerns and adjust your diving behaviour accordingly
  • talk to and dive with other experienced divers
  • reflect on your own dives and critically assess what you can do better
  • dive as relaxed as possible (physically and mentally)