Latest News » Dementia played role in Robin Williams’ death, according to autopsy

Robin Williams' autopsy reveals that his suicide may have been caused by dementia-related hallucinations. Photo by: Andrew Evans / PR Photos

The world was equally stunned and saddened this past August when news broke that the beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams had taken his life. While the 63-year-old talent was long known to have a history of struggling with depression and substance abuse, the release of his autopsy earlier this week point to a combination of Parkinson's disease and dementia-induced hallucinations as responsible for Williams' death.

ABC News reports that the official diagnosis ruled that Williams suffered from Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), a condition that goes hand-in-hand—sometimes indistinguishably so—with Parkinson's disease. Like dementia, LBD exhibits many of the same symptoms of confusion, disorientation and unusual behavior, but coupled with "extremely graphic hallucinations" that affect a person's sense of vision, smell and sound.

Even more troubling is that LBD is often difficult to diagnose, as severity of the condition in its early stages can depend on the patient, and unless you knew the person intimately you may not be able to pinpoint that something is (subtly) off. This is especially disconcerting given how common LBD actually is, affecting the brain health of over 1.4 million Americans today.

The coroner's report indicates that hallucinations caused by LBD may have been a prime factor in driving Williams to suicide, though how is impossible to say. Angela Taylor, director of programming at the Lewy Body Dementia Association, tells ABC News that while LBD-induced hallucinations aren't usually found frightening, they do appear as "very real."

"The dementia usually leads to significant cognitive impairment that interferes with everyday life," Taylor adds. 

While the entire world felt the tremendous loss left behind by Williams' passing, some solace may be found in that such a high-profile case of LBD may help to shed further awareness on this disease for others.

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