Robin Williams’ devastating suicide in 2014 shocked and saddened the world.
In May of 2014, just three months before his death, Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Understandably, this troubling diagnosis caught Williams off guard and caused him a great deal of distress.
After Williams’ death, when an autopsy was conducted, it was revealed that he might have been misdiagnosed. The autopsy showed that he actually had a condition called Lewy body dementia.The same protein that causes Lewy body dementia is also involved in Parkinson’s disease, so the disorders can present similarly and are sometimes difficult to distinguish.
Lewy body dementia is an aggressive, incurable brain disorder that causes a progressive decline in cognitive function. People afflicted with Lewy body dementia experience distressing, debilitating symptoms including: sleep disorders; drowsiness; reduced attention span; disorganized speech; confusion; depression; hallucinations; apathy; dizziness and falls; memory loss; tremors; slowed movement; and muscle rigidity.
Symptoms only worsen with time. As the disease progresses, patients develop severe dementia, depression, aggressive behavior, a greater risk of injuries and falls, worsening tremors and muscle rigidity, and ultimately, death.
In the months leading up to his death, Williams could tell that he was literally losing his mind. It was a terrifying and overwhelming situation. He became intensely paranoid and was too confused to remember his lines while filming. As the disease progressed, he developed severe anxiety, tremors, and difficulty reasoning. The symptoms began about one year before his death and worsened over time. For months, Williams struggled to find a diagnosis and treatment for his condition.
Williams’ decline was heart-wrenching. During the filming of Night at the Museum 3 in the spring of 2014, Williams suffered panic attacks and struggled to recall even a single line. Just three years earlier, he had flawlessly memorized and delivered hundreds of lines while performing on Broadway. Williams’ widow, Susan Williams, recalls feeling utterly powerless; one minute, her husband would be lucid and thinking clearly, and the next minute he would be “blank, lost in confusion.”
Ultimately, Williams took his own life after an agonizing battle with Lewy body dementia and depression.
Williams wasn't the only comedian who suffered from depression. There are others, and some who are still struggling with it today. Read on to learn more.
Photo source: Robin Williams Zelda video game by Selena Hayek