Bruce Willis is diagnosed with aphasia. A USU expert explains what that means

Mar 30, 2022, 7:55 PM | Updated: Mar 31, 2022, 11:44 am
FILE - Actor Bruce Willis appears at the premiere of "Glass" in New York on Jan. 15, 2019. Willis i...
FILE - Actor Bruce Willis appears at the premiere of "Glass" in New York on Jan. 15, 2019. Willis is stepping away from acting after a diagnosis of aphasia, a condition that causes the loss of the ability to understand or express speech, his family announced Wednesday. (Photo by Evan Agostini /Invision/AP, File)
(Photo by Evan Agostini /Invision/AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Bruce Willis announced Wednesday that he is stepping away from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia. The Hollywood actor’s movies have amassed more than $5 billion in box office sales over four decades.

What is aphasia?

Laura Schmitt, a speech language pathologist and certified brain injury specialist at Utah State University, explained with to KSL NewsRadio what the disorder is.

“Aphasia is a language disorder and it can cause changes in communication,” she said. “So, communication meaning the ability to find the right words you want to say, express yourself. It can change how someone understands what others are saying to them. It can also affect someone’s ability to read and write language.”

Schmitt says the aphasia can be the result of some sort of trauma.

“It can be a result of a brain injury, such as a stroke,” she said. “Or traumatic brain injury as a result of being in some sort of an accident.” 

Different levels

Schmitt says there are different levels of the disorder.

“You can have someone who has a pretty mild aphasia where they simply kind of have a tip of the tongue,” she said. “The other side of it can be more of a global aphasia where it affects all aspects of communication where someone may not be able come up with the words they want to say, they may have a lot of trouble understanding what other people are asking of them or trying to tell them. And then they may not be able to read or write. So, there’s a very broad spectrum of where someone might fall if they have been diagnosed with aphasia.”

Schmitt says the disorder can be corrected.

“It’s not always completely progressive,” she said.

She says there are times that therapy can improve someone’s communication, but it depends on the person.

Schmitt says if you have a family member affected by this problem, it’s important to find a good speech pathologist to help you.

If you would like more information, you are encouraged to reach out to Schmitt at 435-797-1375.


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Bruce Willis is diagnosed with aphasia. A USU expert explains what that means