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Losing Your Mind on SCUBA | Under Pressure Divecast | Episode 007

Losing Your Mind on SCUBA

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Losing Your Mind on SCUBA

Are you losing your mind… on SCUBA? Have you ever been completely ready for a dive, listened to the briefing and knew what you needed to do only to submerge and realize you have no idea what’s going on?

Let’s dive into why we forget what we just heard and what to do about it!

Diving Deeper

A little more information about what I covered in the divecast. Here goes…

Why do we lose our minds on SCUBA?


It’s natural to be excited about a dive. In fact, that’s part of why we dive right? I want you to be excited about your SCUBA diving… every dive! What’s important to remember is that the excitement that comes with diving can be a distraction (albeit a good one) that we can account for in our planning to make our dives safer and more enjoyable.


In some ways, anxiety can be similar to the excitement we feel when we anticipate what we’ll see on a dive. However, anxiety can be fueled by uncertainties around the dive such as diver experience level; an unfamiliar dive location or type of diving; level of training; wildlife concerns and any number of stressors. These may not even have anything to do with the dive or SCUBA.

Nitrogen Narcosis

If you’ve been waiting for me to mention nitrogen narcosis… here it is! If you dive below 60 feet (especially on air) you can almost guarantee that you will experience some level of nitrogen narcosis. How it impacts your cognitive ability is not only variable person to person but even dive to dive. The key is to be aware that it happens, be knowledgable about symptoms and solutions.

One Drink per Atmosphere

Okay for under pressure dive buddies over 21 here’s an analogy for you. This isn’t scientific but I’ve found it to be a useful analogy to help divers wrap their heads around how the combination of factors affects our ability to make decisions when we’re diving.

For each atmosphere of a dive consider your ability impaired by one drink (we’ll use margaritas since we’re on vacation).

1 Atmosphere (sea level) – Just by putting your gear on you get credit for this one. This is your excitement and anxiety.

33 Feet – 2 Margaritas

66 Feet – 3 Margaritas – Yup, now most people shouldn’t be driving and… interestingly enough… divers are likely to be experiencing some level of nitrogen narcosis.

99 Feet – 4 Margaritas – You get the idea.

How do we get our minds back?

Before You Dive

There are a number of things we can do to increase our comfort level before we even get to the dive site.

Health & Fitness

SCUBA diving doesn’t require the fitness level of a professional athlete but increasing your personal fitness can improve your air consumption rate and your overall comfort level in the water.


There’s no substituite for experience. The more time you can get in the water the better. If your local dive shop has a pool, see if you can get some time in it to practice your skills from setting up your rig through the underwater skills that we use on every dive and even through in a few of the emergency skills for good measure.

Know Your Gear… Know SCUBA Gear

Gear manufacturers will go to great lengths to differentiate one regulator, bcd, mask, fin or any other gear from another similar item. The principles of SCUBA gear are similar across manufacturers so getting to know your own gear well or the gear you train in at your local dive shop will prepare you for understanding the principles that are common across dive equipment.


Staying hydrated is important for making you dive experience as comfortable as possible. The air we breathe underwater has negligible moisture in it and tends dehydrate you as you dive. Added to that, many of our favorite dive destinations are sunny and warm. Keep a water bottle handy and use it!

Stay Well Rested

Just like staying hydrated, getting a good nights sleep allows you to stay mentally alert with the energy level needed for a great day of SCUBA diving!

During the Dive

Local Diving

One way to be ready for the great dives ahead of you is to practice outside the pool. If you have the good fortune to live on a coast that’s a great opportunity for local diving. If, like me, you live in a land locked area look for local dive spots where you can hone your skills and maybe learn new ones! You may even meet a great dive buddy or two.

Write it Down

I always dive with a slate. I use it to write down dive specific things like max depth, turn pressure, turn time and any other pertinent information about the dive.

Understand and Manage Nitrogen Narcosis

Remember your training and watch your buddy for signs of nitrogen narcosis and respond accordingly to reduce the symptoms and get the most out of your dives!

Gear Junkie’s Garage

As I mentioned earlier I always dive with a slate. There are two basic slates that are commonly available for diving, wrist slates and flat slates that attache to your buoyancy compensation device (BCD).

My own preference is the wrist slate because it doesn’t dangle off the BCD and become a catch hazard.

One modification I always make with my slates is to replace the stock pencil with a mechanical carpenter’s pencil available from most hardware stores. These are more reliable than the small pencils that come standard with the slates.

Tip of the Week

Always dive within the limits of your training! Okay that’s it… enough said.


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