What is Psychosis?

Community Contributed

By Stephanie Napoli, Psy.D., MCHC Behavioral Health Director

Psychosis is a widely misunderstood word that is commonly used as an insult, much in the same way “retarded” is. But psychosis is actually a medical term that refers to a mental disorder characterized by symptoms (such as delusions or hallucinations) that indicate impaired contact with reality. A person who is psychotic, then, has lost touch with reality. This usually means that they see, hear, think, understand, or interpret things differently than most people. Most commonly, people with psychosis see or hear things that aren’t really there.

Psychosis is due to problems with naturally occurring brain chemicals and can be caused by severe mental illness (for example schizophrenia), substance abuse (particularly methamphetamine or “ice” which commonly causes paranoia and hallucinations), severe stress or trauma, severe sleep deprivation, and, at times, some medical conditions (for example, Alzheimer’s Dementia, HIV/AIDS, Lupus, or hypoglycemia).

A complete medical and psychological evaluation should be completed to determine if a person is psychotic and, if so, what is the best course of treatment. For example, if the psychosis is drug-induced, substance abuse treatment would be the most effective treatment. If the psychosis is due to a severe mental disorder, then antipsychotic medication would be the treatment of choice. There are psychiatrists and primary care providers on island who are able to prescribe such medications and who will work with you to insure you receive appropriate, individualized treatment. An initial diagnostic evaluation can be completed by your local Behavioral Health providers at Molokai Community Health Center, Na Pu`uwai, Molokai General Hospital, or Department of Health. For an appointment at MCHC, please call 553-5038.

Dr. Stephanie Napoli is the behavioral Health director at the Molokai Community Health Center. Since moving to the new facility, MCHC professionals have had the opportunity to meet informally with many community members, who have lots of good questions about health and wellness. Napoli and other MCHC professionals look forward to responding to other questions.


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