A new book called Robin, by Dave Itzkoff, reveals new information about Robin Williams that many people didn’t know until now. Williams had suffered from a degenerative brain disease called Lewy body for years prior to his death.
Williams and his family did not know his exact diagnosis, although he had mistakenly been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease on May 28, 2014, reported the New York Post. It was during his autopsy that it was revealed that Williams had “diffuse Lewy body dementia.”
Williams had a prolific career in comedy and in film. He was known for his quick wit and incredible sense of humor, and starred in many timeless films such as Jumanji, Good Morning Vietnam, and Good Will Hunting. However, around 2014, his demeanor began to change. He started to lose his memory, and had many symptoms like insomnia and lost his sense of smell.
Also, he began to suspect people were stealing things from him, and suffered from panic attacks and was put on antipsychotic medication. Although for most of his life, words came to him naturally, it became harder for him to find his words. Sometimes, he would “find himself stuck in a frozen stance, unable to move.”
Throughout all his symptoms, only a few people knew of his Parkinson’s diagnosis.
Terrifying and heartbreaking: a wonderful man, ravaged by a horrifying disease we should have a cure for by now. What a shame our government wastes so much money that could be used to cure so many. #Dementia #RobinWilliams https://t.co/B8h3aEaA7L— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) May 6, 2018
Lewy body can have many symptoms, ranging from difficulties remembering new memories, personality changes, and psychiatric symptoms.
William’s death left a void in fans’ hearts around the globe. Especially once police confirmed the death as a suicide, many people wanted to know what could have caused his deep depression. Some believed it was related to his previous battles with substance abuse, whereas others held on to conspiracy theories.
Unfortunately, Lewy body affects over a million people in the United States, according to the National Institute on Aging. The symptoms start with small indications and can develop quickly. From causing problems with movement, mental impairment, and eventual death, it’s an incurable disease. As it was in William’s case, it can be difficult to diagnose.
William’s long-lasting friend, Billy Crystal, said that he imagined that, “the speed at which the comedy came is the speed at which the terrors came.”
The Post Bulletin referred to Lewy body “the most common disorder you’ve never heard of.” Most commonly misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, there are clinical trials being conducted to better understand Lewy body. Dr. Bradley Boeve from the Mayo clinic says that Lewy body is not a challenging diagnosis to make to “the experienced eye.”