An Overview of Aphasia: The Condition Causing Bruce Willis to Step Away from Acting

This week, the world was shook by the news that Bruce Willis’ acting  career is in jeopardy due cognitive impairment caused by aphasia. The 67-year-old renowned Hollywood star – known for his roles in such blockbusters as “Die Hard” and “The Sixth Sense” – is stepping away from acting, as announced by his ex-wife, Demi Moore, in an Instagram post on Wednesday.

“To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities,” Moore posted. “As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.”

What is Aphasia?

Aphasia, as explained by Mayo Clinic, is a condition that affects one’s ability to communicate. It typically occurs following a stroke or head injury, but can also be spurred on by a slow-growing brain tumor or degenerative, permanent brain damage. The condition’s severity is dependent on a myriad of factors, including the severity of the brain damage. As noted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, aphasia affects ~1 million people, or 1 in 250 in the United States today, with no discernible differences found in incidence between men and women.

People suffering from aphasia may:

  • Speak in short or incomplete sentences
  • Speak incoherently
  • Display mental confusion
  • Write sentences that don’t make sense
  • Make up words
  • Have difficulty understanding spoken words
  • Provide unreliable answers to simple “yes or no” questions
  • Demonstrate difficulty following fast speech

Willis’ aphasia symptoms have unfortunately manifested while on movie sets in recent years. The LA Times reported that on the set of “Hard Kill” two years ago, Willis allegedly misfired a gun off cue, according to the outlet, which cited two sources close to the incident.

How is Aphasia Diagnosed and Treated?

Identifying aphasia falls heavily in the realm of speech-language pathologists (SLPs), who play a significant role in screening, assessment, and diagnosis. SLPs screen individuals who present with language and communication difficulties and determine the need for further testing and/or referral for additional services. They also consult with other professionals such as a speech therapist to facilitate optimal treatment plans, provide treatment, and document patient progress. Making an accurate diagnosis for aphasia also includes the use of imaging procedures such as computer tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and positron emission tomography.

Treatment for aphasia is individually-based, and depends on such factors as age, overall health, extent of the disorder, and tolerance for specific medications, therapies, and procedures. The condition is treated using speech-language therapy, individualized and group therapy, and nonverbal communication therapies (e.g., computers or pictures).

Outlook for Aphasia Patients

Fortunately, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “some people with aphasia recover completely without treatment.” However, for others, remnants of the disease are permanent. Treatments are often successful in helping patients recover some speech and language functions over time, but some communication problems may always persist. Computers can help aphasia patients effectively communicate, and of course, new innovations are constantly being developed.

From everybody here at DocWire News, we wish Bruce Willis the best, and hope for a full recovery.