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Claustrophobia – Don’t let it stop you from learning to dive!


Merriam-Webster define claustrophobia as an “abnormal dread of confined or narrow spaces”. This fear of confined spaces has led many to reject SCUBA as a sport. This is unfortunate, as those of us that dive know that the feeling of claustrophobia is a rarity in diving. Yes, we are confined in water, by the water itself, but the same can be said of the air in which we are naturally at home. Those that inform us that claustrophobia is a major stumbling block for them that then try SCUBA find that their fear of being confined soon abates.

Many new divers have admitted that they were fearful of taking those first dives because of claustrophobic reasons, but after working with their instructor to become a certified PADI Open Water Diver overcame their fear on the path to certification.

So, why are more and more people with claustrophobic hesitation becoming SCUBA divers? There are a number of factors that feed into this:

  1. The PADI Open Water program is a developmental program – your instructor works with you to develop your skills from simple skills to more complex – you don’t move to the next set of skills until you have mastered the previous skills.

  2. The draw of the sea is strong – the advent of underwater imaging has meant that more and more of us are exposed to the breathtaking beauty and wonders of the underwater world.

  3. Sons, daughters, friends and significant others are becoming certified and tell tales of high adventure – the draw is strong to at least give SCUBA a try.

How can I improve my dive experience in becoming certified as a PADI Open Water Diver given such a hesitation?

First, be up front with your instructor at the orientation session that it is a reason that you may not have sought certification in the past – it’s not unusual and your instructor will work with you on that basis.

Secondly, seek a class that focuses on smaller numbers of student divers – the more personal attention you receive the better you will feel in developing your skills. You may also seek some individual training with your instructor on some skills – this is easy to accomplish with smaller classes.

The third consideration is that the new sense of weightlessness often overcomes the sense of claustrophobia. As your buoyancy skills develop, your sense of claustrophobia may diminish quickly.

Claustrophobia and diving

Fourth, your equipment selection is an important factor. Your equipment counselor, i.e. your trusted Hamden Scuba PADI Pro, may recommend a mask that will reduce your sense of claustrophobia in the water. Modern SCUBA masks come in many different styles and colors – translucent and panoramic masks reduce the feeling of being closed in.

Fifth, as a PADI Open Water diver, the focus is on open water – you can always move onto more advanced courses later on where you can learn about and dive with your instructor in more challenging environments, but for most open water divers, the majority of dives are on the shallower side where the water is warmer and the colors are brighter.

At Hamden Scuba we focus on smaller course sizes with more personalized attention to each individual student. We do have a schedule, but we move at your pace to ensure that you get the most out of your training and that you master your dive skills. If you hesitate to dive because of claustrophobia, just let us know and we will work with you to overcome your hesitation at your own pace. There are lots of different kinds of diving – come find your kind of diving with us at Hamden Scuba.

Kevin O’Sullivan ( is a PADI Elite Master Instructor with Hamden Scuba who over his years of professional diving has aided many divers in overcoming claustrophobia and move on to become successful divers. He has trained hundreds of divers from entry level to the professional level. Image Credit: Tim Areson, Hamden Scuba PADI Pro and Underwater Photographer.

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