Aphasia explained: The truth about Bruce Willis' health condition

·Contributor, Yahoo Life UK
·4-min read

Watch: Bruce Willis announces aphasia diagnosis and the end of his acting career

Bruce Willis is stepping away from acting after his family revealed he has been diagnosed with a health condition called aphasia.

Both his daughter, Rumer Willis, and ex-wife, Demi Moore, shared the news via Instagram posting the same picture of the Die Hard actor wearing a dressing gown and sunglasses with a towel on his head.

"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," the accompanying caption read.

"As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him."

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It has been revealed that Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with aphasia, pictured in November 2019. (Getty Images)
It has been revealed that Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with aphasia, pictured in November 2019. (Getty Images)

The post went on to thank fans for their "love, compassion and support" during this "really challenging time".

"We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him," the post continued.

"As Bruce always says, 'Live it up' and together we plan to do just that."

What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a condition that impacts a person’s language or speech skills.

According to the NHS, it usually starts due to damage to the left side of the brain after something such as a serious head injury or a stroke.

The charity Say Aphasia says the condition affects around 350,000 people in the UK, yet not many people have heard of it.

The fact that the condition isn't widely known can contribute to the loneliness that aphasia sufferers experience.

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Ex-wife Demi Moore and daughter Rumer Willis announced the news on social media, the family pictured together in 2019. (Getty Images)
Ex-wife Demi Moore and daughter Rumer Willis announced the news on social media, the family pictured together in 2019. (Getty Images)

Symptoms of aphasia

People with aphasia often have trouble with the four main ways people understand and use language.

These are:

- reading

- listening

- speaking

- typing or writing

Most noticeably, those with the condition may have problems with speech, such as making mistakes with the words they use, either using the wrong sounds in a word, choosing the wrong word or getting words muddled up.

Symptoms can range from mixing up a few words to having trouble with all forms of communication.

But this can sometimes lead to frustration as some people living with the condition are unaware that their speech makes no sense, so feel frustrated when others don't understand them.

Those living with aphasia often find the condition can impact their relationships, employment, education, social lives and confidence. However, although aphasia impacts a person's ability to communicate, it doesn't affect their intelligence.

Aphasia causes

Aphasia is caused by damage to parts of the brain responsible for understanding and producing language.

The most common cause of aphasia is a stroke, but other causes include severe head injury, a brain injury or progressive neurological conditions, such as dementia.

Aphasia can occur by itself or alongside other disorders, such as visual difficulties, mobility problems, limb weakness, and problems with memory or thinking skills, according to the NHS.

There are also different types of aphasia, classed as 'receptive' or 'expressive', relating to whether your issues are with understanding or expressing language – sufferers can also have problems with both.

Who is most at risk of aphasia?

While the condition can affect people of all ages, it is most common in people over the age of 65. This is because strokes and progressive neurological conditions tend to affect older adults.

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The family are working through the diagnosis together, pictured with his wife Emma Heming Willis in November 2019.  (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Film at Lincoln Center)
The family are working through the diagnosis together, pictured with his wife Emma Heming Willis in November 2019. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Film at Lincoln Center)

Treatment for aphasia

The NHS says speech and language therapy is the main type of treatment for people with aphasia.

This aims to help restore some of their ability to communicate, and help those with the condition develop alternative ways of communicating, if necessary.

How successful treatment is differs from person to person with most people with aphasia making some degree of recovery, and some recovering fully.

How to talk to someone with aphasia

The charity, Say Aphasia, has some advice for communicating with someone with the condition including slowing your sentences down, being patient, being concise and using short sentences.

For further tips visit The National Aphasia Association here.

If you're concerned about someone with aphasia, the NHS recommends encouraging them to discuss any problems with their GP or a member of their care team to access the relevant support.