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Bipolar Disorder and Diving – DAN World


Bipolar disorder and diving
Bipolar disorder and diving
DAN World
DAN World

I am a dive instructor but have not dived for five years. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Can I dive safely with the medicine I take, or will it be dangerous even if I dive in shallow water?

Generally speaking, both bipolar I and bipolar II disorders are considered relative contraindications to diving, meaning that people who have this disorder need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for their fitness to dive.

Many divers have found ways to manage their condition and enjoy diving, but each person should discuss the possible implications of diving with their physicians. DAN medics are available to consult with your health care providers.

Some severe symptoms of bipolar disorder may be a contraindication to diving, and we recommend avoiding diving while in either a manic or depressive state.

Manic episodes bring the potential for bad decision-making and engaging in risky behaviours.

Depressive episodes can cloud our judgement and produce circumstances that may leave us prone to accident or injury.

There has been little research into the effects of barometric pressure on specific medications. In general, we are most concerned about the underlying conditions that the drugs are treating and the potential side effects of those drugs.

Lithium is a common medication used to treat these disorders, but its use comes with significant concerns. Lithium can become toxic if a person is dehydrated or if sodium levels drop. Diving is a diuretic, which can complicate the situation.

The side effects of some drugs can alter a person’s mental capacity or make them drowsy, neither of which is compatible with diving. Some medication side effects — such as fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, blurred vision, and headaches — can mimic symptoms of decompression sickness (DCS) and complicate a DCS diagnosis.

Join DAN to get a number of benefits, including answers to all your diving-related medical questions.

This article was originally published in Scuba Diver UK #76.

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