Wendy Williams, Like Bruce Willis, has been diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia and Frontotemporal Dementia, Adding To The List Of Celebrities Who Suffer From The Disease.

Old Cow
9 min readFeb 24, 2024
Journalist and talk show host, Wendy Williams.

Williams had taken a leave from her talk show in 2021 while she dealt with health issues, and in 2023, after undergoing “a battery of medical tests,” she was diagnosed with the conditions, which effect language, communication behavior and function, according to a news release.

Williams, 59, had been open to the public about her Graves’ Disease and lymphedema diagnoses. She initially took an indefinite leave from her long-running talk show, “Wendy,” which premiered in 2008. In 2022 it was announced that Sherri Shepherd would take over the show as host.

Wendy’s care team shared the health update on Thursday “to correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health.” She was on occasion seen unable to form words and acted erratically, including during tapings of her talk show, which left many fans concerned and confused.

What is aphasia?

Aphasia leaves patients struggling to understand language and communicate. The condition gained widespread attention when actor Bruce Willis revealed his diagnosis in 2022. He later revealed he was also diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.

Actor, Bruce Willis.

Just days before Bruce Willis was scheduled to turn up on the set of one of his last action films, the director of the project sent out an urgent request: Make the movie star’s part smaller.

“It looks like we need to knock down Bruce’s page count by about 5 pages,” Mike Burns, the director of “Out of Death,” wrote in a June 2020 email to the film’s screenwriter. “We also need to abbreviate his dialogue a bit so that there are no monologues, etc.”

Burns did not outline one of the reasons why Willis’ lines needed to be kept “short and sweet.” But eventually, the public learned what he and many other filmmakers had privately been concerned about for years: he had aphasia. The cognitive disorder affects a person’s ability to communicate and often develops in individuals who have suffered strokes.

Other celebrities have announced their diagnoses including actresses Emilia Clarke and Sharon Stone.

Game Of Thrones Star, Emilia Clarke.

Game Of Thrones Star, Emilia Clarke was working out and had a bad headache. She was able to crawl to the bathroom where she began vomiting. She was taken to the hospital where she learned she was having a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Her aphasia began while recuperating in the first two weeks after her first surgery. A nurse asked her name. “My full name is Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke. But now I couldn’t remember it. Instead, nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth and I went into a blind panic. I’d never experienced fear like that — a sense of doom closing in. I could see my life ahead, and it wasn’t worth living. I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn’t recall my name.” she said.

“I was suffering from a condition called aphasia, a consequence of the trauma my brain had suffered.” Fortunately, her aphasia resolved on its own after another week in the ICU.

Basic Instinct Actress, Sharon Stone.

Basic Instinct actress, Sharon Stone went from feeling unwell to waking up in a hospital with bleeding in her brain. “It took months for her to regain feeling in her left leg and years for her vision to return to normal.” She also experienced speech issues, including aphasia and then an on-going stutter.

At the same time, she points out the positives of the experience:

“I became more emotionally intelligent. I chose to work very hard to open up other parts of my mind. Now I’m stronger. And I can be abrasively direct. That scares people, but I think that’s not my problem.” She laughs. “It’s like, I have brain damage; you’ll just have to deal with it. ”It took her years of recovery, but she has since returned to acting. She has also become involved in stroke awareness work.

About 2 million people in the United States suffer from aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association.

Aphasia is related to damage on the left side of the brain and is usually a symptom of other medical issues like stroke, head injury or tumor, or develops due to a degenerative brain condition, according to Mayo Clinic.

There are two broad categories Trusted Source of aphasia: fluent and nonfluent. Within these groups, there are several types of aphasia. There are other types of the condition in addition to those below.

Wernicke’s aphasia

Wernicke’s aphasia results from damage to the brain’s temporal lobe. This is a type of fluent aphasia that may causeTrusted Source the following problems with speech and language:

  • saying many words that do not make sense
  • using the wrong words or made-up words
  • stringing together meaningless words that sound like a sentence but do not make sense

Broca’s aphasia

Broca’s aphasia is the most common nonfluent type of aphasia, affecting the brain’s frontal lobe. Features of this type of aphasia include:

  • having difficulty understanding sentences
  • leaving out small words such as “is” or “the”
  • saying something that does not resemble a sentence
  • having difficulty forming complete sentences
  • making mistakes when following directions such as “left, right, under, and after”
  • using a word that is similar to but not the exact word, for example, saying “car” instead of “truck”

Global aphasia

A stroke that damages an extensive portion of the front and back regions of the brain’s left hemisphere may result in global aphasia. People with global aphasia may have difficulty forming and understanding words and sentences. They may be extremely limited in their ability to speak or understand language.

If the brain damage is mild, it’s possible to recover language skills without treatment. However, most people undergo speech and language therapy to rehabilitate their language skills and supplement their communication experiences. Researchers are investigating the use of medications, alone or in combination with speech therapy, to help people with aphasia.

Recovery of language skills is usually a slow process. Although most people make significant progress, few people regain full pre-injury communication levels.

Speech and language therapy aims to improve the ability to communicate. The therapy helps by restoring as much language as possible, teaching how to make up for lost language skills and finding other methods of communicating.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia, also known as FTD, describes a group of brain disorders that affect the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes, which are associated with personality, behavior and language, Mayo Clinic explains.

It accounts for about 10% to 20% of dementia cases, second only to Alzheimer’s disease and it is the most common form of dementia for people under 60.

About 50,000 to 60,000 people are diagnosed with FTD year. It is a progressive disease that will worsen and can require a lot of care.

Frontotemporal dementia can be misdiagnosed as a mental health condition or as Alzheimer’s disease. But FTD tends to occur at a younger age than does Alzheimer’s disease. It often begins between the ages of 40 and 65, although it can occur later in life as well. FTD is the cause of dementia about 10% to 20% of the time.

Some people with FTD show dramatic changes in their personalities and can “become socially inappropriate, impulsive or emotionally indifferent, while others lose the ability to use language properly,” Mayo Clinic says.


Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia differ from one person to the next. Symptoms get worse over time, usually over years.

People with frontotemporal dementia tend to have clusters of symptom types that occur together. They also may have more than one cluster of symptom types.

Behavioral changes

The most common symptoms of frontotemporal dementia involve extreme changes in behavior and personality. These include:

  • Increasingly inappropriate social behavior.
  • Loss of empathy and other interpersonal skills. For example, not being sensitive to another person’s feelings.
  • Lack of judgment.
  • Loss of inhibition.
  • Lack of interest, also known as apathy. Apathy can be mistaken for depression.
  • Compulsive behaviors such as tapping, clapping, or smacking lips over and over.
  • A decline in personal hygiene.
  • Changes in eating habits. People with FTD typically overeat or prefer to eat sweets and carbohydrates.
  • Eating objects.
  • Compulsively wanting to put things in the mouth.

Speech and language symptoms

Some subtypes of frontotemporal dementia lead to changes in language ability or loss of speech. Subtypes include primary progressive aphasia, semantic dementia and progressive agrammatic aphasia, also known as progressive nonfluent aphasia.

These conditions can cause:

  • Increasing trouble using and understanding written and spoken language. People with FTD may not be able to find the right word to use in speech.
  • Trouble naming things. People with FTD may replace a specific word with a more general word, such as using “it” for pen.
  • No longer knowing word meanings.
  • Having hesitant speech that may sound telegraphic by using simple, two-word sentences.
  • Making mistakes in sentence building.

Movement conditions

Rare subtypes of frontotemporal dementia cause movements similar to those seen in Parkinson’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Movement symptoms may include:

  • Tremor.
  • Rigidity.
  • Muscle spasms or twitches.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Inappropriate laughing or crying.
  • Falls or trouble walking.


In frontotemporal dementia, the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain shrink and certain substances build up in the brain. What causes these changes is usually not known.

Some genetic changes have been linked to frontotemporal dementia. But more than half of the people with FTD have no family history of dementia.

Researchers have confirmed that some frontotemporal dementia gene changes also are seen in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). More research is being done to understand the connection between the conditions.

There’s currently no cure or treatment for frontotemporal dementia, although research into treatments is ongoing.

Risk factors

Your risk of getting frontotemporal dementia is higher if you have a family history of dementia. There are no other known risk factors.

Wendy’s’ team said the decision to make her diagnoses public was a difficult one, but they decided to do so “not only to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy, but to raise awareness about aphasia and frontotemporal dementia and support the thousands of others facing similar circumstances.”

They said Wendy can still do many things for herself and “maintains her trademark sense of humor.” She is receiving the care she needs, they said.

Written By Jill Loris

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