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How to Get Over a Fear of Scuba Diving

The ocean is the perfect cutaway from everyday life, and you’d love nothing more than to dive in and explore. There’s just one thing in your way: how to get over a fear of scuba diving!

While fear is normal and guides us away from danger, it can hinder progress and enjoyment in less-threatening situations. Perhaps you haven’t tried scuba because of a fear of the sea, or you’re struggling to finish your PADI Open Water Diver course due to scuba diving anxiety.

Either way, don’t worry — here’s how to get over a fear of scuba diving. You’ll be certified and ready to Live Unfiltered before you can say thalassophobia!

Why is scuba diving scary?

The first step to overcoming a fear of scuba diving is to ask yourself, ‘Why do I have a fear of diving?‘ or ‘Why do I panic when scuba diving?‘. Be precise, because you need to figure out exactly what you’re scared of before you can find the best way to fight that fear.

What is the fear of diving called?

There isn’t one word for the fear of scuba diving, but there are many related phobias, such as claustrophobia (confined spaces), bathophobia (depth), or even submechanophobia (submerged objects). Other fears are specific to scuba skills — like mask clearing or jumping off a boat.

Thalassophobia vs. Aquaphobia

The phobia closest to scuba diving is arguably thalassophobia, a fear of large bodies of water such as the ocean. Aquaphobia is a broader fear of water, including drinks or baths.

Learn the facts

Uncertainty can make fears worse. Ask lots of questions and research the facts behind what seems scary, and you’ll probably realize it’s much less threatening than you thought.

For example, a common phobia is sharks (galeophobia). Discovering that most sharks are harmless and several everyday things are more dangerous can put things into perspective and reduce your fear of scuba diving with sharks.


Practicing meditation and mindfulness moves your focus to what’s happening around you rather than your inner thoughts and fears. Deep breathing physically relaxes the mind and body. When learning how to get over a fear of scuba diving, use relaxation techniques before your dive (to build a calm, positive state of mind) or during your dive (to stay in control during a scary situation).

Think happy thoughts

Positive thinking is key to overcoming any fear:

  • Instead of what can go wrong, try listing the best things you might experience.

  • Challenge your negative thoughts.

  • Focus on what you want to achieve rather than what not to do.

  • Recall a time when you overcame another fear — remind yourself you can do it.

  • Use coping statements to reassure yourself.

Prep yourself

Eat well, hydrate well (but avoid caffeine and alcohol), and get a good night’s sleep before diving. Turn up on time, and wear decent exposure protection. Your fears will feel more daunting if you’re tired, cold, hungry, or rushed!

Face your fear

A popular phobia treatment is exposure therapy (in particular, systematic desensitization). A ‘fear ladder’ will list the smaller steps needed to reach your goal. Starting with the easiest, you’ll face them one at a time, only moving to the next level once you feel comfortable.

For example, if you fear fish (ichthyophobia), you might start by looking at photos of fish, then watching videos. Next, you might visit the beach or an aquarium, and so on, until you’re swimming with real fish. Virtual diving and visualization can be useful in this process, too.


Visualization goes hand-in-hand with positive thinking, exposure therapy, and meditation.

Picture yourself successfully performing each step in mask clearing, if that’s your nemesis. Or imagine how you’ll feel after finishing your PADI course. Studies have shown that by mentally rehearsing scenarios in which you pretend to overcome your fear, your brain will be tricked into believing there’s nothing to be scared of.

Remember your ‘why’

Whether it’s photography goals, saving the planet, or being free to Live Unfiltered, reminding yourself of the reasons to get certified and how diving can change you will undoubtedly motivate you to overcome your fear of scuba.

You might try:

  • Browsing photos on Instagram

  • Watching scuba movies or reading books

  • Listening to inspirational stories from other PADI divers

  • Keeping your favorite ocean quote somewhere you’ll see it every day

Know your limits

A little excitement or challenge can be healthy, but being peer pressured or pushing past your limits can lead to setbacks or even incidents. This will only amplify fears in the long run. Instead, stick to baby steps. Work on building your confidence slowly and safely, and your fears should naturally fade away.

Talk about it

Firstly, make sure your PADI Instructor knows about your scuba diving fear. They can adapt their teaching style to show you how to get over a fear of diving at a pace you’re comfortable with. What’s more, their expert ocean knowledge can dispel any myths behind your fears.

Tell your buddy, too. Then they won’t, for example, accidentally cause panic by blowing bubbles at you if you’re terrified of them (ebulliophobia). They’ll also be ready to give reassurance if you encounter something frightening, and can share their own experiences and tips to put you at ease.

Another method is assisting someone else. Help them into their wetsuit, identify a fish they’ve seen, or practice pre-dive checks together. Focusing on other people’s needs can distract you from your own anxieties!

Get professional help

If the above isn’t working, then consider professional help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and hypnosis are common treatments for phobias, while ergo-therapy and adaptive techniques guide divers through mental and physical barriers.

How to get over a fear of scuba diving

Our final tip for how to overcome a fear of scuba diving? Go diving!

The more you avoid your fears, the bigger they grow. Instead, being able to Live Unfiltered through scuba diving promotes positive mental health, which in turn empowers you to conquer your fears head-on.


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