What are the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis?

If you’re wondering how does a diver feel when narked or gets nitrogen narcosis, let’s take a look. But the feelings associated with nitrogen narcosis will depend on a few factors, one of which being the depth of the dive.

How does a diver feel when Narked - Is it Euphoric or Terrors or Crazy

How does a diver feel when narked depends on the person, the depth of the dive and a number of other factors. But the feelings when narked can range from euphoria to depression , anxiety and terrors of the deep! These feelings only really come on from dive depths of 30 metres (98 feet) and deeper.


What are the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis and how does a diver feel when narked?

In my article on what causes nitrogen narcosis, I explain that you are more likely to suffer from the narks on dive depths beyond 30 metres (98 feet) deep.

If you don't fancy the idea of getting narked, then the simple answer is to stay above 30 metres. However, if you fancy diving on a great wreck or another dive that takes you beyond the 30 metre point, you may be asking "How does a diver feel when narked".

If we look at each of the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis (or the narks), lets see how a diver might feel with each symptom.

How does a diver feel when narked - from a personal perspective

There are two occasions that stand out to me when I can say that I was definitely narked on a dive. Both times I wasn't only below 30 metres (98 feet), but deeper than 45 metres (148 feet). So both times a deep dive.

The first time it was quite funny, whereas the second experience of the narks was a bit more scary.

I have been narked on other dives, but realised it and ascended a few metres for the feeling to subside, before continuing the dive.

At what depth does nitrogen narcosis occur?

The first dive that I'm aware of the affects of nitrogen narcosis was at around 50 metres (164 feet). I was diving with a dive buddy I'd dived with on a regular basis when I belonged to a BSAC dive club in Saffron Walden, UK.

On every dive I carry a diver's slate to communicate with my buddy underwater. It was during a dive from Dartmouth UK at around 50 metres (164 feet) that I wrote something on my slate. My buddy looked at my slate and then to me with a puzzled look on his face.

More Reading: How do I get a dive buddy? (5 easy ways to find a dive buddy)

I was confused by this and pointed to the new message on my slate. My buddy shrugged his shoulders as if to say he didn't know what I meant.

Returning to the surface revealed the mystery of being narked

Once we returned to the surface and got back on the dive boat I retrieved my diver's slate. It was only when I looked at my slate that I realised why my buddy had no idea what I had written. It was complete gobbledygook!

We then laughed at what had happened, but it was only then we realised what had happened. I had been narked from the depth and in my mind I'd written something quite legible, but in fact I hadn't at all.

To answer the question on this occasion "how does a diver feel when narked?" I felt normal, but it affected me without realising that I was affected. So of all the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis or the narks, you could say that I had impaired judgment and confusion.

Nitrogen narcosis 47 meters down

How does a diver feel when narked - nitrogen narcosis 47 meters down

On the second occasion the dive was still a deep dive and was to a depth of 47 metres down.

More Reading: Can You Survive 47 Meters Underwater? (47 Metres In Feet = 154 Feet)

The dive was in the UK and on a wreck off the coast of Littlehampton. The wreck in this case was the SS Moldavia, which was a 12,358 ton 1903 steam ship which was sunk by torpedo during World War I in 1918.

The dive was going to be a decompression stop dive due to its depth of up to 48 metres (157 feet). However, I never got further than arriving at the bottom (which was at 47 metres), when I began to feel anxious.

I was diving with two buddies on this dive and when the lead diver gave the okay signal, I gave the 'not-okay-signal' back.

More Reading: How Deep Can You Dive Without Decompression (No Decompression Stop Limits)

I pointed to my head, as this was my only way to explain that something was up and I indicated my ascent.

Nitrogen narcosis 47 meters down and the long ascent with anxiety and terrors of the deep!

I left my two buddies to continue their dive, whilst I proceeded to ascend the 47 metres to the surface. This was one of the most scary ascents ever. I was hyperventilating. My heart was pounding. I was terrified my air would run out before I reached the surface.

Fortunately, I reached the surface and all's well that ends well. But this nitrogen narcosis story goes to show that narks can affect anyone at any time. I'd been dive for years and done loads of 40+ metre (131 + feet) dives.

To answer the question on this occasion "how does a diver feel when narked?" On this occasion I'd say it was the 'Terrors' I had this time and anxiety.

More Reading: What helps with anxiety during scuba diving? (7 scuba anxiety relief tips )

How does a diver feel when narked - other feelings

In addition to the personal feelings that I had when I was narked, here's a few examples:

  • A feeling of being over confident and a sense of overwhelming wellbeing and euphoria.
  • A sense or feeling of finding this funny or amusing causing laughter underwater.
  • Hallucinations.
  • The feeling of dizziness.
  • A feeling of being totally confused.
  • An increased sense of vision of hearing.
  • A feeling of depression.
  • Difficulty in concentrating.
  • A feeling of disorientation.

Probably the best advice I can give you if you experience any of these symptoms or feelings as a diver is to ascend a few metres or feet until the feeling goes away. On some occasions you can continue the dive, as I have done myself. But if the symptoms are severe, you should abort the dive like I did in my second example.

However, the mistake I made was to ascend alone. Never do this on your own in these situations, as you really need someone by your side in case anything goes wrong.

My mistake was in think I didn't want to spoil my buddy's dive. However, I was fortunate things ended well. But it could quite easily have gone wrong for me instead!

I hope you enjoyed this article about how does a diver feel when narked

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or scuba diving (or specifically about how does a diver feel when narked), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.

Have fun and be safe!


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