Bruce Willis: Actor’s shocking retirement brings attention to aphasia
SAN DIEGO – Recently, Bruce Willis announcement that he has aphasia. As a result, he has retired from acting. His announcement sent shock waves throughout Hollywood, not to mention among his many fans. A popular action hero, Willis and his frequently adventurous movies have long made him a popular and bankable film star for decades.
That said, over the past year or two, several movies starring Bruce Willis caused many fans to wonder why his speaking lines seemed greatly diminished. But now they have the sad answer. We now know his diminished number of speaking lines provided evidence that his capacity for normal speech had gradually become impaired. This ultimately resulted in the diagnosis that he was suffering from a specific neurological disorder.
According to the National Aphasia Association:
“Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language, but does not affect intelligence. Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others.”
The underlying cause for aphasia involves a variety of factors.
These include stroke, brain tumor, traumatic head injury, infection and the earlier onset of Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. Parts of the brain become damaged and/or deteriorate due to such factors. Symptoms can range from milder to more severe.
This affliction can cause difficulty in speaking, including the use of words in appropriate sentence structures. It also can cause the victim to discover increasing difficulty understanding spoken words and related difficulties involving basic reading and writing.
Aphasia affect individuals world-wide. Physicians and scientists believer this affliction affects the approximately 2 million Americans.
The National Aphasia Association outlines the more commonly known types of aphasia:
Global Aphasia: Impairment in the ability to produce most recognizable words, accompanied by severe difficulty with normal speech. Commonly due to stroke, it could also cause result in a related inability to read or write.
Broca’s Non-Fluent Aphasia: Speech becomes significantly impaired. Vocabulary becomes very limited as does the ability to write. It may still be possible for the victim to comprehend speech and / or read.
Mixed Non-Fluent Aphasia: Spoken words become sparse and their production requires great effort. Understanding the meaning of words is limited. The ability to read or write may decline to a level no greater than that of an elementary school student.
Wernicke’s Aphasia: Though the speech of affected individuals becomes limited, victims of Wernicke’s Aphasia retain the ability to grasp the spoken word. Overall speech patterns are not considered normal. This can involve speaking inappropriately structured sentences. These, in turn, may include words spoken out of context. Reading and writing could become seriously impaired as well.
Anomic Aphasia: Affected individuals exhibit an inability to process words that convey the meaning they actually intend to convey. Speech output can prove vague, and can involve expressions of frustration at one’s own limited capacity. Though affected individuals retain an ability to read well, writing proves difficult for them.
For those affected by diminishing capacity, aphasia remains challenging and difficult to cope with.
That seems especially true if the affected individual can understand what others are saying, but lacks the ability to respond effectively. Nevertheless, communicating with friends and family members stricken with aphasia can prove challenging, requiring new ways to engage and interact.
When communicating with an individual who, like Bruce Willis, is afflicted with this condition, science recommends keeping the general environment quiet and reasonably peaceful. At the same time, when conversing with an afflicted individual, those involved should make sure they transmit their spoken words calmly and more slowly. This provides time for those victims of this condition to attempt to process their general environment and grasp the meaning of what others wish to convey. Providing reassurance while not coming across as overprotective can also provide a sense of independence and support for those afflicted.
Depending upon the severity of an individual’s aphasia and how far it has progressed, it may prove possible for friends and family to develop special drawings, gestures and mutually understood methods for communicating. All these can help to successfully connect and communicate with an afflicted individual.
Though there no known cure exists for aphasia, in some cases medical and healthcare specialists can lessen the symptoms by targeting appropriate therapies. Already trained and experienced in the ways of this malady, they can positively affect recovery processes.
Can aphasia diminish over time?
Depending upon the root cause of an individual’s aphasia, along with his or her and overall health, there remain some cases when this condition can self-correct.
Celebrity helps bring attention and public awareness to the devastating problems involving aphasia. Bright stars, such as actor Bruce Willis, actress Sharon Stone, country singer Randy Travis, former weatherman and entertainment reporter Mark McEwen and actress Emilia Clarke have all been diagnosed with this condition at certain points in their careers and at different ages.
Aphasia can happen to most anyone. But we find ourselves inspired by those who have been struck down but struggled through hard work and dedication to get their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as possible, given the often elusive nature of their condition.
For further information and/or support for aphasia, the following organizations could possibly help:
National Aphasia Association
Scarsdale, NY 10583
NIH Neurological Institute
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
Voice: (800) 352-9424
Speech Impaired: Dial 711 on your phone
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Main image: Screenshot via YouTube/Grunge.
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