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Adverse Scuba Diver Behaviors

What is the single most cause of underwater accidents?  You may think that equipment failure is the number one cause, the truth is that the greatest single threat to a diver's well being is his/her own mental state.  In fact, the most reliable equipment in the world is of no value if it is placed in the hands of a diver who doesn't have his/her head on straight.

A number of behavioral patterns and reactions can lead to accidents.  Collectively, these are known as adverse diver behaviors.

Panic is undoubtedly the most dangerous adverse behavior demonstrated by divers.  Panic begins with stress, then escalates into an uncontrollable reaction.  In the majority of cases, the panic cycle begins with the perception of a problem or threat, rather than an actual life threatening event.  In other words, the diver is his own worst enemy because he allows stress to turn a relatively minor and solvable problem into a dangerous panic attack.

Stress induced panic can cause divers to bolt blindly for the surface and omit entire decompression schedules, or sometimes even cause a loss of such basic breath control or swimming ability.  Otherwise good swimmers have been known to "claw" for the surface.

In order to avoid panic reactions, divers must learn to STOP, THINK, BREATHE, AND ACT. Training and experience can build a solid foundation for stress management, but controlling the panic reaction is ultimately a matter of mental awareness and mind control.  A diver must realize that as long as he has an adequate supply of air and a clear head, almost any problem can be overcome and solved.

Modifying one's behavior requires the diver to develop a survival mind-set, to create a list of "What ifs" and corrective actions, and to continue to perform mental rehearsals and drills that are beyond the scope of formal training.

Another adverse behavior that can get a diver in trouble real fast - especially males -  is Bravado or ego.  Individuals that are big on bluff and bluster often exhibit unsafe attitudes and dive habits.  As an instructor, these type are easy to recognize, but sometimes difficult to deal with.  On the one hand, I don't want to damage the mucho - but one the other hand, I don't want to lose the guy to his own ego.

Unfortunately, even some instructors are guilty of bravado.  This is a poor practice!  It gives the students the feeling that they have to "be as good as", or "If he can do it, I can do it".  I've been asked the question, "What's the deepest you've ever been?"  This question is a dead give-away - this guy thinks that going deep is mucho...

Bravado type behaviors can also result from peer pressure.  Too often divers are made to feel like they are "nobody" until they've gone to this depth or swam that distance.  Often, such boasting results in divers pushing themselves to greater and greater depths without benefit of an Instructor's presence

Safe, experienced divers aren't created in a few days or a few dives.  It takes bottom time and ongoing practice to develop and perfect the skills required to overcome negative behaviors and instill confidence in one's own ability.

Until next time...


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