Robin Williams Had Early Stages of Parkinson's Disease: About 1 Million Americans Suffer From it

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By Sarah Thomas | August 16, 2014 3:25 PM EST

Robin Williams' wife, Susan Schneider, said in her statement last Thursday that the actor was suffering from anxiety, depression and early stages of Parkinson's disease. The 63 year old actor and comedian was found dead in his Northern California home last Monday. Investigators suspected that it was a suicide.

Reuters
Robin Williams gestures during a panel discussion for his upcoming HBO show "Robin Williams: Weapons of Self-Destruction" at the Television Critics Association Cable summer press tour in Pasadena, July 30, 2009.

The reasons are unknown as to why Williams took such a drastic step. News reports stated that the bouts of depression and his previous drug addiction could have been the possible driving factors leading to his death.

Schneider's statement revealed facts about Williams' health that he kept under the sheets for a long time. She said, "Robin's sobriety was intact. He was brave on struggling his own battles of depression, anxiety, and early stages of Parkinson's disease, which he was not yet ready to share to the public".

Schneider also stated that the actor's death can give strength to others in treating and fighting their own problems, for them to be less afraid.

Williams was still acting in four films that did not hit the theatres during the last year of his life. He was supposed to be a part of a CBS sitcom that was cancelled. From Schneider's statement, it was clear that Williams suffered from early stages of Parkinson's diesease but it is still unknown if the disease took a toll on his ability to work or not.

Parkinson's disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder. The patient's condition will probably worsen over time. About 1 million Americans suffer from this kind of disease. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, the symptoms of the disease can easily be detected by the people who are close to the patient. There would be a visible loss of balance, changes of speech, poor posture and abnormal facial expressions. "During this initial phase of the disease, a patient usually experiences mild symptoms. These symptoms give inconvenience the day-to-day tasks that the patient would otherwise complete with ease." Specifically the symptoms would include tremors or excessive shaking in one of the limbs.

National Institutes of Health website stated that the disease is more likely to affect men than women and is usually seen in those who are above 50 years old. Parkinson's disease "causes certain brain cells to die". 

Williams was also prone to depression and had undergone several treatments to deal with it. Marin County, Assistant Deputy Chief Coroner Lt. Keith Boyd stated that the investigation has revealed that he was seeking treatment for depression. Exercise and cycling were his stress management methods but his family also revealed that the illness prevented him from doing that and was extremely upsetting, that added to his depression.

Williams was known for his good deeds and the humorous roles he played. His wife said, "Robin spent so much of his life helping others. Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the front lines or comforting a sick child -- Robin wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid".

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(Photo: Reuters / Mario Anzuoni)
Robin Williams gestures during a panel discussion for his upcoming HBO show "Robin Williams: Weapons of Self-Destruction" at the Television Critics Association Cable summer press tour in Pasadena, July 30, 2009.
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