Bruce Willis' aphasia diagnosis causing 'really difficult times' says Sylvester Stallone

Watch: Die Hard star Bruce Willis is going through 'really difficult times', Sylvester Stallone reveals

Bruce Willis is going through "really, really difficult times" with aphasia, according to his long-time friend Sylvester Stallone who has delivered an update on the actor's health.

Earlier this year, Bruce Willis, 67, stepped away from acting after his family revealed he had been diagnosed with a health condition called aphasia, a psychological condition in which a person has trouble speaking and understanding.

And now Stallone, his friend and former business partner, has shared an update on living with the condition.

“Bruce is going through some really, really difficult times, so he’s been sort of incommunicado,” Stallone said in a recent interview with THR.

“That kills me, it’s so sad.”

Stock picture of Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis on the red carpet. Stallone has delivered an update on Bruce Willis' aphasia. (Getty Images)
Sylvester Stallone has delivered an update on Bruce Willis' health after the actor was diagnosed with aphasia, pictured together in October 2010. (Getty Images)

In March 2022 the star's family announced news of the star's diagnosis via Instagram with daughter Rumer Willis, ex-wife, Demi Moore, and current wife Emma Heming Willis 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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Stock picture of Bruce Willis pictured in November 2019 before news of his aphasia diagnosis. (Getty Images)
Celebrities including Bruce Willis, Emilia Clarke and Sharon Stone have been affected by aphasia. (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."

Wife Emma has since shared updates of how she and the family have been coping since her husband's diagnosis, including a video on Instagram of her enjoying the outdoors and exercising. "This was the summer of self discovery—finding new hobbies, going out of my comfort zone and staying active," she wrote in August.

"My grief can be paralysing but I’m learning how to live along side it. As my step-daughter @scoutlaruewillis told me, grief is the deepest and purest form of love. I hope you find some comfort in that too."

Willis isn't the only celebrity to make his health condition public, Emilia Clarke, Sharon Stone, Terry Jones, Gabby Giffords, and the late Patricia Neal have also opened up about their experiences with aphasia.

But what exactly is it, how do symptoms present and can it be treated?

Read more: Aphasia: Celebrities who've battled the same devastating condition as Bruce Willis

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 like 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.

Stock picture of 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)

Aphasia symptoms

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 them 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 doesn't make 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.

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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, like 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 – people with the condition can also have problems with both.

Bruce Willis pictured with his wife Emma Heming Willis in November 2019 at an event.  (Getty Images)
The family have been working through the diagnosis together, pictured with wife Emma Heming Willis in November 2019. (Getty Images)

Who is most at risk of aphasia?

While aphasia 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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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.

Stock picture of a doctor consulting a patient inside a hospital during the day. (Getty Images)
A GP can help with the next steps if you think you might have symptoms of aphasia. (Getty Images)

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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 information on how to help people with aphasia, visit the website, or call 44 (0)7796 143118 or email colin@sayaphasia.org

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.