PTSD in the Air Force

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of mental illness triggered by a terrifying event.1 PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced or witness a trauma. Military personnel who have been in combat are at greater risk of developing PTSD than those who haven’t. The symptoms of PTSD can appear at any point after a trauma.

The symptoms of PTSD are divided into four categories:

  • Intrusive memories
  • Avoidance
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Some of these symptoms include the following:
 

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast1

While growing awareness of PTSD in some branches of military has occurred in recent years, veterans of the United States Air Force are often undertreated as they battle the disorder.

PTSD in Air Force Personnel

Post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t simply bring back the memories of war for Air Force servicemen. In combat situations where Air Force veterans encounter pressure to perform high-precision duties in the wake of disaster, while under fire or while foraying into enemy territory, the body enters an adrenaline-fueled state as the mind attempts to cope with unimaginable stress and psychological pain.

air force men walking with helicopter in backgroundSome Air Force servicemen find themselves entering a numb state during episodes of trauma (known as “dissociation”), while others may have encountered panic, or simply survived 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. As a result, Air Force employees may find themselves re-experiencing the traumatic event upon return from deployment – sometimes immediately after the trauma itself, or even at years’ delay.2 Even for those who have not been formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, symptoms can persist. One study found that one-fifth of female Air Force Iraq War veterans surveyed had experienced one or more PTSD symptoms.3

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Prevalence PTSD in the Military

The prevalence of PTSD in the military, across all branches of service, depends in part on where and when a soldier served, including the following:
 

  • Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom: Between 11 and 20 percent of veterans.
  • Gulf War: About 12 percent of veterans
  • Vietnam War: Studies suggest about 15 percent of veterans, yet it’s estimated that about 30 percent have had PTSD in their lifetime.4

The Veterans’ Administration has now ranked the disorder as the fourth most frequent disability connected with military service. While studies have shown that enlisted military members are twice as likely to report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, many officers also experience the anxiety disorder after wartime experiences.

Finding PTSD Treatment for Air Force Veterans

If you are experiencing PTSD symptoms related to deployment or service in the Air Force, targeted treatments can help alleviate – and in many cases, fully resolve – the collective fallout of wartime trauma. PTSD treatment approaches include dedicated and group therapy sessions, prescription drug therapies, EMDR and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Substance abuse treatment for those who have developed addictions as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder is also an important part of the process.

If you are a veteran or the loved one of a veteran, please call our 24-hour helpline to speak with an admissions coordinator about available treatment options. You are not alone. Call us now.


Sources

1 Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 July 2018.

2 PTSD- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Air Force Medicine. Accessed Oct. 2018.

3 Munsey, Christopher. “Women and War.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association. Accessed Oct. 2018.

4 PTSD in the Military: Statistics, Causes, Treatment, and More | Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, 20 Apr. 2018.