Scuba diving does more than just offer a glimpse into an underwater world - it also comes with a surprising range of psychological benefits. In this blog, we're going to explore the ways in which diving can reduce stress, improve focus, and even boost self-esteem. But there's more to it. Recent clinical research has started to shed light on the therapeutic potential of scuba diving for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This research indicates that diving could play a crucial role in managing and potentially alleviating PTSD symptoms.
General Benefits Of Scuba Diving For Mental Health
1. Stress Reduction
When you're scuba diving, the outside world and its stressors fade away. The rhythmic pattern of breathing underwater mimics techniques used in mindfulness and meditation, helping to calm the mind and reduce anxiety. Additionally, the physical activity involved in diving stimulates the production of endorphins, the body's natural mood boosters, which can help decrease stress levels.
2. Improved Focus
Scuba diving requires divers to be acutely aware of their environment, their equipment, and their physical sensations, necessitating heightened focus and concentration. This mindful state, where the mind is fully engaged in the present moment, can carry over into everyday life, improving attention spans and overall cognitive function.
3. Increased Self-Esteem
Mastering scuba diving skills and overcoming challenges underwater can greatly enhance self-confidence and self-esteem. Successfully navigating through a dive can bring about a sense of achievement and self-assurance that can spill over into other aspects of life. Moreover, the sense of belonging to a community of divers can contribute to an improved sense of self-worth.
PTSD & Scuba Diving
In addition to the general psychological benefits of scuba diving, clinical studies provide evidence for the powerful healing ability of scuba as it relates to PTSD.
A 2011 study by Dr. Adam Kapin of Johns Hopkins University of Cody Unser of the Cody Unser First Step Foundation demonstrated how scuba training could be used as a PTSD treatment. During this study, ten paralyzed veterans with PTSD completed their Open Water Diver scuba course certification over four days.
During this time, the divers noticed:
- An 80% reduction in PTSD symptoms
- A 15% reduction in muscle spasticity
- A 10% increase in sensitivity to light tough
- A 5% increase in sensitivity to pinprick
- A 15% decrease in obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms
These results weren’t just limited to the four-day course period, either. The veterans continued to benefit from an overall decrease in mental health concerns for weeks to months after the dives.
A smaller project discussed in the Summer 2021 issue of Combat Stress repeated a similar experiment with three divers suffering from PTSD, one of whom had no prior diving experience. All three experienced an improvement in symptoms that, as of publication, was ongoing. The diver for whom the longest stretch of time had passed since the dives had been 2 years symptom-free at the time of publication.
There are also ongoing clinical trials that continue to explore and support the benefits of scuba diving for PTSD, including one currently being conducted by the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice.
Scuba Training With Your G.I. Bill® Benefits
If you are eligible for G.I. Bill® benefits and interest in scuba diving, you can use these funds to pursue scuba training.
- Apply for your G.I. Bill® Benefits on the VA website.
- Print out your VA statement of benefits.
- Paragon Dive is the only approved testing center in Arizona. Bring your statement of benefits to this location to schedule your certification.
- After you complete your exams, you’ll receive three documents and a presentation to submit for VA reimbursement.
Training At Paragon Dive
Paragon Dive is committed to providing high-quality scuba certification courses, including options that are eligible for GI Bill® reimbursement.