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Robin Williams was ‘frustrated and very uncomfortable’ due to Parkinson’s’ misdiagnosis in final years, his son reveals

By Hannah Mallorca Published Jul 25, 2021 7:00 pm

Robin Williams’ son Zak revealed that his late father’s misdiagnosis affected his physical and mental health in the final years of his life.

In a podcast interview with TV personality Max Lugavere, Zak spoke about how the late actor and comedian’s misdiagnosis affected the final years of his life.

Robin took his own life in August 2014 at the age of 63. He was initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012, but an autopsy later revealed that he actually had Lewy body dementia, which has Parkinson’s-like symptoms. 

Zak recalled that his father was “very frustrated” when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

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“What I saw was frustration because what he was going through didn’t match to many Parkinson’s patients’ experiences… There was a focus issue that frustrated him. There were issues associating with how he felt and from a neurological perspective, he didn’t feel great. He was very uncomfortable,” he added. 

Zak also revealed that Robin also struggled with anxiety and depression as he battled with the disease. At the time, he felt that his father was “really irritated” at how Parkinson’s affected his ability to “perform his craft.”

Zak said that Robin’s misdiagnosis might have “exacerbated” his condition since the heavy medication “was no joke.” 

“They're also really hard on the mind and the body. The diagnosis was different than the disease so I think it could be a situation where you’re taking stuff and experiencing purely its side effects,” he added.

During Robin’s struggle with his physical and mental health, Zak recounted that he felt “beyond empathy” and wanted to help his father cope. 

Zak admitted that his father’s suicide also affected his own mental health as he was “self-medicating through the trauma using alcohol.” He was diagnosed with post-traumatic disorder soon after. 

He shared that he enrolled in a 12-step program and attended group therapy due to being “sick and tired” to treat himself using “harmful means."

The actor-comedian’s son also called to end the stigma around mental health, especially for men. He cited that many still lack access to affordable mental health resources and proper care. 

As of this writing, Zak is a co-founder and CEO of the Prepare Your Mind company. He is also a mental health advocate. 

Robin, who would have turned 70 this year, is known for his comedic roles in films such as Aladdin, Dead Poets Society, Night at the Museum, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, and Mrs. Doubtfire