What is aphasia? Bruce Willis steps away from acting after being diagnosed

Aphasia is not a loss of intellect

Bruce Willis's surprising announcement that he was stepping away from his career as an actor due to Aphasia has many people wondering what aphasia even is.

What is aphasia? Many people want to know more about the disorder after it was announced that Bruce Willis had been diagnosed and would be stepping away from his acting career.

Rumer Willis, Bruce’s daughter, posted the news to Instagram 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.”

Read: Actor Bruce Willis has aphasia, will step away from acting, family says

Aphasia is more of a symptom than a true diagnosis. Someone with aphasia has issues with language and communication. It’s often caused by an underlying problem in the brain, most commonly on the left side of the brain.

Aphasia is the loss of language that typically comes from some sort of brain injury. Most commonly it’s due to a stroke, but it could be caused by a head injury, aneurysm, infection, or part of a progressive neurodegenerative disorder.

“It’s really quite something that aphasia affects over 2 million people in the United States. And it’s actually more common than Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy combined and yet hardly anyone knows what it is,” Dr. Carol Persad, Director of the University of Michigan’s Aphasia Program, said.

The loss of language with aphasia can take different forms. Some people are unable to speak fluently, others may be able to speak fluently but the words don’t make sense and others are unable to comprehend what’s being said.

“What’s really important to understand is that aphasia is a loss of language. It’s not a loss of intellect and yet many people view that person with aphasia as being stupid or having an intellectual impairment and are treated very differently -- and it is extremely frustrating,” Persad said.

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About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.