FORT DRUM, N.Y. (WWTI) – Post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, continues to keep a tight hold on many lives. PTSD, as evident in its name, derives from extreme trauma, which can be disruptive, making everyday life difficult and sometimes impossible for some.
Dr. Todd Benham is the Installation Director of Psychological Health at Fort Drum and commonly sees PTSD patients in the soldier population. He has been working with soldiers for over two decades and has been at Fort Drum for almost twenty years.
“Many people have been through a traumatic event, but for PTSD, it really has to be what I like to describe it as ‘Trauma with a capital T,” Dr. Benham explained. “So this would be a significant situation that you have directly witnessed or experienced where there was a possible loss of life situation, serious injury, or sexual assault.”
On base, Dr. Benham commonly sees soldiers struggling with PTSD as he has been working with soldiers for over two decades and has been at Fort Drum for almost twenty years. Although Dr. Benham said that the number of PTSD patients has significantly decreased at Fort Drum in the past twenty years, it is still something to be aware of.
“In a soldier population where you are doing different types of deployments where there are potentially some increased rates of traumatic events, you’re going to see higher rates of PTSD,” he explained. “So certainly between 2001 and 2011, we saw a lot more PTSD here.”
Dr. Benham explained that psychologists usually look for what they call “symptom clusters” when evaluating someone for PTSD. These symptom clusters present themselves as intrusive thoughts, avoidance behaviors, mood changes, and hyperarousal.
“So what we look for in PTSD is what is happening after time goes on. So we think about how the person is responding one month, to three months to years down the road after the symptoms of a traumatic event.”
Clinical aspects aside, Dr. Benham said that you cannot ignore the true difficulties that come with the disorder and he often urges patients struggling with PTSD to not let their trauma define them.
“Trauma is a very personal and very difficult thing for people. You don’t need to share that traumatic event with a ton of other people, but trauma does not necessarily need to define who the person is,” he expressed. “So what I encourage people that I work with is, trauma is a part of your past, it’s a part of your history, it doesn’t have to be who you are in the present.”
For those struggling or seeking help, visit the National Center for PTSD website.