On Wednesday, Bruce Willis’s family confirmed that he has been diagnosed with aphasia. As a result, the 67-year-old is stepping back from his longtime Hollywood acting career because of how the disorder has impacted his cognitive capacities.
“To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family, we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues,” the Willis family said in an Instagram statement posted to their respective accounts. Willis “has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities,” according to the caption, which accompanies a throwback photo of Willis. “As a result of this and with much consideration, Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.”
Willis’s family is sticking together during this difficult period and is grateful for the kindness of the actor’s many fans. “This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion, and support,” they write. The note is collectively signed by Willis’s wife Emma Heming Willis, ex-wife Demi Moore, and five daughters: Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, and Evelyn Willis.
What is aphasia, exactly? Aphasia is a disorder resulting from damage to areas of the brain responsible for language, impacting the ability to understand speech, express oneself, read, and write, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It typically starts abruptly after a stroke or head injury causes brain cells in regions that control language functions to die, the NIDCD explains. Aphasia can also develop gradually due to a slow-growing brain tumor or degenerative neurological condition (like Alzheimer’s disease).
The signs, symptoms, and severity of aphasia depend on the exact location and extent of the brain damage. There are four main types, according to the National Library of Medicine, each with the potential to affect one’s language abilities differently. In expressive aphasia, the person knows what they want to express but has difficulty doing so (via speech or writing). In receptive aphasia, the person is unable to comprehend the words they hear or read. In anomic aphasia, the person struggles to use the right word for nouns (like objects and places). And in global aphasia, the person is incapable of speaking, comprehending speech, reading, or writing.
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