The most significant predictor of whether someone will develop PTSD is how much and how frequently they experience trauma. Combat is a high stress, high trauma situation that demands Airmen to perform high-precision duties while under fire or while foraying into enemy territory. In these situations, the body may enter an adrenaline-fueled state as the mind attempts to cope with unimaginable stress and psychological pain.
Some Airmen find themselves entering a numb or disconnected state during episodes of trauma, known as dissociation. This is a protective mechanism as your body “shuts down” and disconnects from the reality of the traumatic event. Others may experience panic, severe fear and dread. Others simply survive through the event without a second thought. However, due to the stress responses in the body and brain, neurological and psychological changes can take place in survivors of war.
While this change only occurs to a minority of individuals, the result can be that Airmen may find themselves re-experiencing the traumatic event immediately after returning from deployment - sometimes immediately after the trauma itself, and sometimes, years later.