Robin Williams' son opens up about father's mental health, saying the star was "frustrated" and "very uncomfortable" before his death

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CBS News 22 July, 2021 - 10:36pm 37 views

How did Robin Williams son die?

The "Good Will Hunting" star died by suicide at age 63 in 2014 while suffering from Lewy body dementia. The Hollywood legend shared his son with his first wife, Valerie Velardi. He welcomed a daughter, Zelda Williams, 31, and another son, Cody Williams, 29, with his second wife, Marsha Garces. Today.comRobin Williams' 70th birthday: Son Zak pays tribute

How old would Robin Williams be today?

(CNN) In August, it will have been seven years since the death of Robin Williams shocked the world. The famed comedian and actor died by suicide in 2014 after battling Lewy body dementia. Williams would have turned 70 on Wednesday. Robin Williams died August 11, 2014, at age 63. CNNRobin Williams: Remembering him on what would have been his 70th birthday

Robin Williams' son marks late comic's 70th birthday, plus more news

Wonderwall 22 July, 2021 - 03:01pm

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Robin Williams' son says his father was 'very uncomfortable' and 'frustrated' in his final years due to Parkinson's disease misdiagnosis

Yahoo News 22 July, 2021 - 10:22am

But Williams had been misdiagnosed with Parkinson's disease two years before his death.

Williams' son, Zak, said the misdiagnosis left his father "very uncomfortable" and "frustrated."

Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Robin Williams' son Zak spoke at length about the neurological disease and the subsequent medical misdiagnosis that plagued the last years of his father's life during a candid interview on Max Lugavere's "The Genius Life" podcast.

Williams, who would have turned 70 on Wednesday, died by suicide in 2014 at the age of 63. Two years prior, Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. An autopsy following his death, however, found that the legendary actor had been misdiagnosed and actually had Lewy body dementia or LBD, a form of progressive dementia.

LBD shares several debilitating symptoms with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of progressive dementia, including memory loss, hallucinations, and anxiety. Zak told "The Genius Life" podcast that during Williams' final two years, his father was left feeling frustrated by the effects of the disease and his diagnosis.

"What he was going through didn't match one to one [with] many Parkinson's patients experiences. So, I think that was hard for him," Zak said on the podcast. "There was a focus issue that frustrated him, there were issues associated with how he felt, and also from a neurological perspective, he didn't feel great. He was very uncomfortable."

Zak thinks his father's misdiagnosis "might have exacerbated the situation," adding that the drugs used to treat Parkinson's "are no joke."

"They're also really hard on the mind and the body," he said. "The diagnosis was different than the disease so I think it could be a situation where you're taking stuff and experiencing purely the side effects of [the drug]."

There is currently no known cure for LBD or any treatment that will slow down its progression. Zak told the podcast that his father's symptoms intensified in the two years before his death, which he said heavily impacted the Oscar-winner's ability to "perform his craft."

"I don't want to say it was a short period. It felt a lot longer than it actually was because it was a period for him of intense searching and frustration," he said.

"I couldn't help but feel beyond empathy. I couldn't help but feel frustrated for him," Zak continued. "It can be really isolating even when you're with family and loved ones."

LBD is caused by clumps of protein that build up in areas of the brain responsible for functions such as thinking, visual perception, and muscle movement, according to NHS.com.

Following Williams' death in 2014, his widow Susan Schneider Williams penned an essay for the medical journal "Neurology" where she said that the medical professionals who had reviewed her husband's last two years of medical records and brain scans said Williams' case was "one of the worst LBD pathologies they had seen" and there was "nothing else anyone could have done."

She wrote: "The massive proliferation of Lewy bodies throughout his brain had done so much damage to neurons and neurotransmitters that in effect, you could say he had chemical warfare in his brain."

Read the original article on Insider

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Robin Williams' son Zak opens up about effect of late father’s misdiagnosis: 'What I saw was frustration'

Fox News 21 July, 2021 - 04:57pm

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The son of Robin Williams is speaking out about his father’s psychological struggles as well as his own in the wake of the legendary comedian’s death in a new podcast interview.

Zak Williams, 38, sat down with writer and host Max Lugavere for a long heart-to-heart during the latest installment of his podcast, "The Genius Life," which streams new episodes every Wednesday.

Their candid conversation included their mutual struggles with depression, anxiety and the pain of watching a loved one be consumed by a debilitating neurodegenerative disease: dementia with Lewy bodies. Both Lugavere and Williams have watched a parent suffer through the "frustrating" illness — the pain of which has left a lasting impact on both men.

It was a poignant conversation to debut on the day that would have been Robin’s 70th birthday, on July 21.

"What I saw was frustration," said Williams of his father’s diagnosis and misdiagnosis.

About two years before his death by suicide in 2014, doctors told Williams that he had Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, causing its signature tremors.

But an autopsy would later reveal that Robin and his medical team had treated the wrong illness. "What he was going through didn’t match one to one [with] many Parkinson’s patients’ experience," said the eldest son of Robin and his first wife, Valerie Velardi.

Williams believes his father’s misdiagnosis likely exacerbated the emotional toll that dementia takes on patients. In the years Robin lived without knowing the full scope of his illness, his son observed his struggles to focus and the subsequent "challenges performing his craft," contributing to the actors’ anxiety and depression prior to his death.

"Lightning quick recall — that was his signature [on stage]," he said, referring to the impact of dementia on patients.

Both dementia with Lewy bodies [DLB] and Parkinson’s dementia disease [PDD] are subtypes of dementia, marked by a buildup of proteins that clump together in neurons of the brain, inhibiting both the central and autonomic nervous systems.

However, DLB distinguishes itself from the other subtype with symptoms including a notable decline in cognitive abilities, and struggles with everyday mental activities such as planning, problem-solving, focusing and staying alert, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association. Hallucinations, sleep-walking, mood swings and physical rigidity are also characteristic of DLB.

Furthermore, the development of PDD is not guaranteed in all Parkinson’s patients initially — adding to Robin’s confusion in the years prior two his death.

"It was a period for him of intense searching and frustration," Williams said. "It’s just devastating."

That devastation took its toll in the aftermath of his father’s passing — in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and depression: "I was self-medicating through the trauma using alcohol."

His waning health, which included bouts with psychosis, ultimately galvanized Williams to seek help — by helping others. "I was just sick and tired of trying to treat myself using harmful means," said Williams, who transformed his negative experience into a positive one through advocacy.

"What is it I need to not only take care of myself, but to show up for others?," he posed to host Max Lugavere, who noted that men, in particular, are four times more likely to die by suicide compared to women, according to studies.

"I think many [men] feel isolated, many don’t have the outlets needed," said the father of two, who found strength in a 12-step program and other forms of group therapy. He sympathizes especially with those who lack access to mental health resources, due to cost or distance. Telehealth is working to extend access, he pointed out, but encourages in-person connection in tandem.

Especially in men, for whom the stigma of seeking mental health treatment is much higher, men’s groups — at churches, bars or wherever else they find shared interest — can be a powerful source of inspiration and support. Gender-exclusive men’s groups, too, "enables them to focus on issues at hand without interpersonal gender dynamics," Williams added.

The activist and entrepreneur, who founded PYM, a mental wellness company that specializes in "neuro-nutrition." It was his battle with alcoholism that prompted his exploration of the subject, leading him to learn more about how nutrient deficiency impacts the brain and psychological health, such as the neurotransmitter Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), supplements of which made all the difference in his recovery. "It was like night and day," Williams said.

Low levels of GABA in the brain have been associated with increased levels of anxiety and mood disorders. The amino acid has been nicknamed "nature’s Valium," by some, according to Lugavere.

PYM’s products and other forms of supplementation are "not cures," Williams insisted and should be used in tandem with a healthy diet, exercise and therapy, for some. "They don’t solve for anxiety, but they try to address the root fixes."

His goal as an advocate is to encourage people to need to think more about mental health in terms of physiological health: "People need to understand what they need for their bodies."

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