Decompression Illness Denial

The risk of DCI exists with each diver and each dive no matter if it’s a short no decompression dive to 60 feet (18 m) or a staged decompression dive to 200 feet (61 m). Even if you follow all of the rules, your computer or dive tables, your decompression schedule, and ascend properly, DCI can still take place. In some ways, DCI is a statistical inevitability, something ever diver may have to deal with at some time.

The attitude in the diving community is such that DCI is a result of doing something wrong. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Certainly, there are divers who push the limits by ignoring safety stops or decompression stops and end up getting bent as a result. But as mentioned, even divers who do everything right and error on the side of conservatism end up getting DCI sometimes. Understanding DCI, the signs and symptoms, and what you should do in case you get DCI should be the focus of ever diver. Unfortunately, because of the stigma around DCI, many times divers look for other reasons as to why their shoulder hurts or why the have an itchy rash on their back. This is called DCI denial. It’s typically the first sign or symptom of a DCI victim. They don’t want to admit to themselves or to others that the have DCI because they’re scared of how they might be perceived. This type of attitude is dangerous and foolhardy. Denying to yourself or to others that you have pain could result in permanent injury or worse, a handicap injury.

DCI Type II symptoms are much more evident and harder to deny. If someone is exhibiting slurred speech or is having trouble walking, it is pretty evident that they are experiencing symptoms of a very serious DCI hit. Trying to deny or ignore these types of symptoms is extremely dangerous. Medical treatment should be sought after immediately and all egos should be set aside.

Regardless of the seriousness of denying DCI, there is still a stigma in the diving community today about reporting DCI, which is both illogical and lacking in common sense. Denying to yourself or to others that you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of DCI is not a macho type attitude to have. You’re only doing yourself more harm by not seeking help. DCI manifestations are progressive in nature, meaning that they get worse over time.

Don’t let the stigma of reporting DCI or the fear of how you might be perceived stop you from reporting and seeking help in the event you get DCI. The quicker you respond to your symptoms, the quicker you stop further damage and heal and can return to diving. Remember, especially if you’re conducting technical decompression dives, that it’s most likely at some point you’ll receive a DCI hit. Knowing how to handle it is the best thing you can do for yourself. Denying it to your buddy because you’re scared or embarrassed is pointless and stupid, because he’ll probably be next to get it and you’ll both be on the same level.