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What Is Aphasia, The Condition Bruce Willis Has Recently Been Diagnosed With?


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

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Bruce Willis.

"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," his family said in a statement. Image credit: PAN Photo Agency/

Bruce Willis, beloved actor known for his tough-guy roles in movies like Die Hard and Pulp Fiction, is stepping away from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia. The 67-year-old's family said that the condition is "impacting his cognitive abilities".

"With much consideration, Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him," his family wrote in a joint statement on Instagram (in full below). "This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support."


What is aphasia? 

Aphasia is a condition that affects your ability to communicate, causing difficulty with language or speech. People with the condition may have trouble talking, understanding, reading, typing, and writing.

Symptoms can vary from person to person. Some may find it difficult to understand others if they’re talking quickly. Others will have trouble understanding jokes. Some will find it hard to put together long sentences or may muddle up words. 


There are also different types of aphasia, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. People with Broca aphasia, also known as expressive aphasia, may eliminate the words "and" and "the" from their language, and speak in short sentences. 

Alternatively, people with Wernicke aphasia, also known as receptive aphasia, may speak in long confusing sentences, add unnecessary words, or create new ones. They also might have difficulty understanding the speech of others.


It’s typically the result of damage to one or more of the language areas of the brain, which are found in the left side of the brain in most people. This damage can be the result of a traumatic injury to the brain, a brain tumor, or a stroke depriving part of the brain of blood. Strokes are the leading cause of the condition. It's estimated that around one-third of strokes result in some degree of aphasia. 

There are at least 2 million people in the US living with aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association. However, the condition remains relatively unknown among the wider population, with over 84 percent of people saying they've never heard the term "aphasia."

Can you treat aphasia? 

There is no “cure” for aphasia, but there are a number of different treatments people with the condition can receive to ease their symptoms. The choice of treatment will depend on the person’s age, wider health, symptoms, and cause of the condition, but one of the primary ways to address the problem is through speech and language therapy. 

Family and friends of people experiencing aphasia can also help. This involves simple tips like speaking clearly and slowly, maintaining eye contact while communicating, using shorter sentences, and giving the person plenty of time to express themselves.


All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.


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