By Ferdous Al-Faruque - 08/14/14 03:52 PM EDT
Robin Williams was battling early stages of Parkinson’s disease at the time of this death, his widow, Susan Schneider, revealed in a statement Thursday.
As speculation grows as to why the former comedian and actor died in an apparent suicide earlier this week, Schneider explained that Williams's sobriety was intact "as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson's Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly,” she wrote.
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease that does not have a cure and is diagnosed in 60,000 Americans annually, according to the National Institutes of Health. The disease is also 50 percent more prevalent in men than women.
Williams’s death came as a shock to fans around the world who have come to know him as a high-energy comedian who played some of Hollywood’s most memorable roles in movies such as "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Good Morning Vietnam."
Lawmakers immediately turned to Twitter to offer their condolences after Williams’s death. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who has a mental health bill in the pipeline, said his death was a call to reform the system.
Recently, National Institute of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel mourned Williams in a blog post and acknowledged that acute depression and other psychological disorders can be just as fatal as "big killers" such as cancer and heart disease.