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The world learned Wednesday that Hollywood legend Bruce Willis, 67, would be retiring due to his diagnosis of aphasia, a potentially devastating condition that causes a person to lose communication skills.

Willis’ family announced that the condition would cause the Die Hard star to walk away “from the career that has meant so much to him.”

About 1 million Americans have the condition, the National Institutes of Health reports, and about 180,000 people are diagnosed each year.

It can manifest itself in multiple ways and is often the result of a head injury, stroke, tumor, or other brain damage.

Aphasia can also be devastating, with experts saying it causes depression in more than a third of cases, can lead to personality changes, and can even alienate friends and family from the affected person.

Other famous examples of aphasia include former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke.

‘Imagine being dropped in a country where you don’t speak the language, you can’t understand, read, write or speak. It would affect all your interactions – that’s what it’s like to have aphasia,” Darlene Williamson, president of the aphasia association, told DailyMail.com.

While it’s impossible to say for Willis in particular how drastically the condition has affected him and his behavior, Williamson reports that it can often be devastating for patients.

“The consequences of living with a language disability can alter a person’s behavior and outlook on life,” Williamson said.

‘Approximately 35 percent of people with aphasia experience some depression.’

The cause of the condition, which is often some form of traumatic brain injury or stroke, can lead to massive personality changes.

‘[Aphasia is] Difficulty with language arising from some type of injury to the brain. The most common source is a stroke… but it could come from any other type of damage,” Dr. Brenda Rapp, a cognitive scientist at Johns Hopkins University, told DailyMail.com.

Certain infections that affect the brain’s language centers can also cause aphasia to form, along with the cognitive decline and impairment associated with dementia.

The condition can make it very difficult for an actor like Willis to continue his career, as just the process of speaking out loud can become challenging.

“It would be difficult for sure,” Williamson said of trying to continue acting while suffering from the condition.

‘Aphasia affects the understanding of language, speech, as well as reading and writing. There are different levels of severity which would be another determining factor. It may not be impossible, but acting would require additional adaptations.

Dr. Rapp said that despite the communication breakdowns caused by the condition, people with the condition still have the same thoughts and are internally the same person.  Although the experience can be alienating, loved ones need to remember that the person has not changed.  Pictured: Willis with family and friends after a 'barbecue' event in 2018

Dr. Rapp said that despite the communication breakdowns caused by the condition, people with the condition still have the same thoughts and are internally the same person. Although the experience can be alienating, loved ones need to remember that the person has not changed. Pictured: Willis with family and friends after a ‘barbecue’ event in 2018

There are four common types of aphasia that make up the vast majority of cases: fluent, often called Wernicke’s; non-fluid – known as Broca’s; anomic; and Primary Progressive Aphasia.

Rapp explained that there are different forms of the condition because each represents a different type of breakdown in the communication process.

Whether it’s the ability to translate thoughts into proper words, the ability to say words physically, or the ability to interpret and understand the speech of others, each part of communication is a complex process, and even mild brain damage can cause problems.

While the condition causes communication breakdowns, Rapp points out that the person himself remains the same.

Their thoughts, beliefs, and feelings toward their loved ones remain, even if it can be frustrating and alienating for both the aphasia patient and those around them to deal with this condition.

Willis’s family did not disclose which type he was dealing with, or how serious a case he had, or what root cause was found for the condition.

According to the stroke Association, a group based in the UK, those with Wernicke’s aphasia have the ability to put together long sentences of words, but often say things in a way that doesn’t make sense, or even use made-up words.

They will also suffer from reading and writing problems, and may have trouble understanding clear verbal communication to them.

An example used by Rapp is that a person can misunderstand the sentence ‘John kicked the dog’.

Dr. Brenda Rapp, a cognitive scientist at Johns Hopkins University, explains that aphasia is often caused by stroke and can manifest itself in many different ways.

Dr. Brenda Rapp, a cognitive scientist at Johns Hopkins University, explains that aphasia is often caused by stroke and can manifest itself in many different ways.

Dr. Brenda Rapp, a cognitive scientist at Johns Hopkins University, explains that aphasia is often caused by stroke and can manifest itself in many different ways.

While the average person would clearly understand who kicked whom in that scenario, a person dealing with this type of condition may have a hard time figuring out whether John or the dog was the person who kicked.

Broca’s aphasia often causes a person to forget words or string together an appropriate string of words, even when their brain can fully understand what they mean.

A person with this type of condition often uses short, simple sentences to communicate, as they are sometimes unable to correctly say what they want.

The Stroke Association says these sentences will often be around four words or less.

A person suffering from Broca’s aphasia will also have problems with writing, but their reading ability will not be affected.

Someone with anomic aphasia may struggle to find the specific verbs and nouns they need to express their point of view, and will speak very vaguely.

This can translate to their writing as well, where they just won’t be able to come up with the right words needed to say what they’d like to say.

Primary Progressive Aphasia Aphasia impairs a person’s ability to communicate in virtually every way.

A person with this version of the condition will have trouble speaking, reading, and writing.

Their ability to process and understand someone speaking to them is also impaired.

Doctors can often detect aphasia through an MRI or CT scan, and will be able to pinpoint the exact part of the brain that is causing the problem.

There is no way to completely fix or cure the condition, but patients often undergo speech therapy to help rebuild their language skills.

‘Not much progress [with medication for the condition]… the treatment for aphasia is speech therapy,” Rapp said.

He noted that in some cases, a person may undergo electrical stimulation therapy along with speech therapy to “get the most out of” the experience.

Williamson said that “strong family support is a critical piece of successful living with aphasia.”

However, it is not always permanent, and its duration and severity often depend on the severity of the brain damage.

Stroke victims in particular who suffer from aphasia can regain speech, and often in just a few weeks.

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