‘So moving and insightful’: Jeremy Paxman documentary moves fans to tears as he speaks about feeling ‘frustrated’ and ‘depressed’ with his Parkinson’s disease – but insists he doesn’t want any ‘sympathy’

  • Viewers were moved to tears after watching Jeremy Paxman speak about feeling ‘depressed’ in his ITV documentary Paxman: Putting Up With Parkinson’s 
  • The broadcaster, 72, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 18 months ago and discussed it for the first time on film in the documentary 
  • The 60-minute programme follows Jeremy’s story of living with the degenerative disease, which affects one in 500 people
  • In the programme, Jeremy admitted he is on mood enhancers after suffering with depression and feeling ‘frustrated’ since his Parkinson’s diagnosis  
  • Taking to Twitter, viewers admitted they were ‘moved to tears’ by his ‘courage’ in speaking about living with Parkinson’s disease in the ‘powerful’ documentary 

Viewers were moved to tears after watching Jeremy Paxman speak about feeling ‘depressed’ and ‘frustrated’ in his ITV documentary Paxman: Putting Up With Parkinson’s.

The broadcaster, 72, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 18 months ago and discussed it for the first time on film in the documentary.

The 60-minute programme follows Jeremy’s story of living with the degenerative disease, which affects one in 500 people and causes the brain to become damaged over the years.

Emotional: Viewers were moved to tears after watching Jeremy Paxman speak about feeling ‘depressed’ and ‘frustrated’ in his ITV documentary Paxman: Putting Up With Parkinson’s

In the programme, Jeremy admitted he is on mood enhancers after suffering with depression and feeling ‘frustrated’ since his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

He candidly spoke about his struggles with coming to terms with the disease, saying he feels ‘beaten and dejected’ by Parkinson’s, but insisted he doesn’t want sympathy from people.

Taking to Twitter, viewers admitted they were ‘moved to tears’ by his ‘courage’ in speaking about living with Parkinson’s disease in the ‘powerful’ documentary.

One viewer wrote: ‘Pretty much moved to tears watching #jeremypaxman and other brave souls deal with the life changing effects of #parkinsons #puttingupwithparkinsons.’

Disease: The broadcaster, 72, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 18 months ago and discussed it for the first time on film in the documentary

Another said, ‘so moving and insightful’, while a third added: ‘I have to admit I shed a tear, very informative & thought provoking.’

A fourth wrote: ‘Just watched #PuttingUpWithParkinsons with Jeremy Paxman on @itv 

‘Also on the show, my #RoundBritainQuiz chum @paulsinha It was tremendously moving and congratulations to all involved in its making. Unmissable. #amazingbravery.’

A fifth penned: ‘Brave and enlightening documentary from @JeremyPaxman Uplifting, supportive and delivered in true Paxman style. This will have helped raise awareness and understanding.’ 

Another tweeted: ‘I’ve just watched Jeremy Paxman ‘Putting up with Parkinson’s.’ So moving. It’s a savage condition.’ 

‘So moving’: And viewers admitted they were moved to tears after watching Jeremy candidly discuss his ‘frustration’ with Parkinson’s disease as he battled with his symptoms

The documentary saw Jeremy investigate the degenerative disease and meet with doctors and Parkinson’s sufferers – including The Chase’s Paul Sinha and Vicar of Dibley writer Paul Mayhew Archer.

Jeremy also met Sharon Osbourne, whose husband Ozzy suffers with the disease, while the presenter also made the decision to donate his brain to Parkinson’s research after his death.

The University Challenge presenter also spoke about his decision to step down from helming the quiz show due to his Parkinson’s, revealing his last ever episode will be filmed on October 15.

In the documentary, Jeremy admitted that he gets ‘immensely frustrated’ by his Parkinson’s disease in a voiceover, before he spoke to Dr Angus Kennedy about his depression at an appointment at Cromwell Hospital.

Speaking to the neurologist, Jeremy spoke candidly about taking mood enhancers as he spoke about feeling depressed. 

Difficulties: Jeremy admitted he is on mood enhancers after suffering with depression since his Parkinson’s diagnosis. Jeremy is pictured doing facial exercises to manage his symptoms 

When asked how he was finding the medication, he said: ‘They’re really good! I like them, I don’t get as depressed. I do get very depressed, I always have, but now I take lots of medication.’

When asked if he feels happier now, Jeremy joked: ‘Wryly amused rather than cheerful.’ 

However, Jeremy insisted that he doesn’t want anyone’s sympathy because of his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

‘I don’t want people’s sympathy. I just want them to say ‘oh that bloke has got it’,’ he said.

‘That is what a TV person would say to get someone to blub on camera, and I’m not going to! I don’t want to be involved in production of a film that will be more little me.’

Diagnosis: Speaking about his Parkinson’s diagnosis, Jeremy said he was taken to hospital after falling over in the park, where Dr Angus Kennedy told him he might have Parkinson’s

Symptoms: The consultant neurologist admitted that he thought the presenter might have the disease after watching him on University Challenge and noticing his face wasn’t as expressive

Speaking about getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s 18 months ago, Jeremy said he was taken to hospital after falling over in the park, where Dr Angus Kennedy told him he might have Parkinson’s.

The consultant neurologist admitted that he thought the presenter might have the disease after watching him on University Challenge and noticing his face wasn’t as expressive.

One of the main symptoms of Parkinson’s is lessened facial expressivity, which is also referred to as ‘mask face’.

Jeremy explained: ‘It was completely out of the blue, I was walking around the square, I had the dog on the lead and the first thing I knew was someone sitting me on a bench. 

Scans: Jeremy admitted that he gets ‘immensely frustrated’ by his Parkinson’s disease in a voiceover, before he spoke to Dr Kennedy (pictured looking at Jeremy’s brain scan) at Cromwell Hospital

Mental health: Speaking to the neurologist, Jeremy spoke candidly about taking mood enhancers as he spoke about feeling depressed

‘I’d fallen over and made a terrible mess of my face. When I was in A&E the doctor walked in and said I think you’ve got Parkinson’s.’ 

‘I had no idea! I was 71 years old, that’s what happens when you get old, you fall over. Especially after a few,’ he added.

Elsewhere in the programme, Jeremy spoke about how some of his Parkinson’s symptoms have affected his day-to-day life, admitting he struggles with writing and can’t type anymore.

He said: ‘I’ve written lots of books, I enjoy writing. When you get the right words for what you are trying to say, it’s satisfying. 

‘I can’t type, it’s really annoying, I write something and it turns out to be gibberish. It gets me down a bit.’ 

‘I don’t want people’s sympathy’: However, Jeremy insisted that he doesn’t want anyone’s sympathy because of his Parkinson’s diagnosis

Scans: Jeremy’s brain scans were shown on screen as he was shown which parts of the brain signify his Parkinson’s disease 

Jeremy also met with The Chase’s Paul Sinha, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease back in 2019.

Jeremy attended a comedy night where Paul performed, and the comedian spoke about when he was diagnosed on stage.

He said: ‘I fell flat on my face, it was 3am and I was p***ed out of my skull. So I thought it wasn’t anything serious, then I was told I might have Parkinson’s disease.’

Speaking to Jeremy after the show, Paul admitted that although he used to be a doctor, he didn’t align his symptoms with Parkinson’s disease.

He said: ‘I’d started limping by [the time of diagnosis]. I used to be a doctor, so the term limping gate were common to me, but I never thought that was what I had.’ 

Support: Elsewhere in the documentary, Jeremy also met with The Chase’s Paul Sinha, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease back in 2019

Medical training: Speaking to Jeremy after the show, Paul admitted that although he used to be a doctor, he didn’t align his symptoms with Parkinson’s disease

Jeremy admitted that he didn’t know what Parkinson’s disease was before his sudden diagnosis last year.

Speaking about managing his symptoms, Paul said he does facial exercises in front of the mirror every day because he has noticed he is ‘less expressive on TV’.

When Jeremy asked him about the positive things about the disease, Paul said: ‘It teaches us to make sure you do embrace and treasure the things you like. It’s been an action-packed stage in my life.’

Speaking about his own Parkinson’s symptoms, Jeremy said: ‘I feel OK. I have no pain or discomfort, I don’t have the shakes. I have nothing wrong with me, I just feel sleepy a lot of the time.’

Raising awareness: Jeremy admitted that he didn’t know what Parkinson’s disease was before his sudden diagnosis last year

Research: Elsewhere in the documentary, Jeremy also made the decision to donate his brain to Parkinson’s research and met with neuropathology professor Steve Gentleman

Jeremy also made the decision to donate his brain to Parkinson’s research and met with neuropathology professor Steve Gentleman.

Speaking about donating his brain, he said: ‘As I will have no use for my brain after my death, I thought, why not!’

During his meeting with Prof Gentleman, Jeremy was shown a brain that had been preserved for four to five weeks, which was donated by a Parkinson’s sufferer.

As he was shown the brain, Jeremy said: ‘Quite something to think this was a human being, everything this person was – how they loved, how they lived – all of that’s here.’

To which Prof Gentleman added: ‘You’re looking at the record of this person’s life, everything that happened to them is encoded in this.’

Donation: During his meeting with Prof Gentleman, Jeremy was shown a brain that had been preserved for four to five weeks, which was donated by a Parkinson’s sufferer

Managing: Jeremy then continued to visit medical professional Lauren McIntosh, where he practiced exercises to manage his Parkinson’s symptoms

Symptoms: He practiced walking while bouncing a balloon, walked with his knees up, pulled a resistance rope, and practiced emotions to keep his face moving in the session

Jeremy gave an insight into how he manages his symptoms as he visited medical professional Lauren McIntosh, where he practiced a number of exercises and spoke about feeling ‘beaten and dejected’ by Parkinson’s.

He practiced walking while bouncing a balloon, walked with his knees up, pulled a resistance rope, and practiced emotions to keep his face moving in the session.

Jeremy admitted that he struggles to see the positives in his situation, saying: ‘I’m beaten and I’m dejected, you always try to tell me it’s not all doom and gloom, but it is all doom and gloom.’

The presenter wondered whether it is harder for the partner of someone with Parkinson’s disease than the suffer, leading him to meet Sharon Osbourne, whose husband Ozzy, 73, also suffers from the neurological condition.

She discussed how the Black Sabbath star uses cannabidiol, known as CBD, because, like Jeremy, he experiences unsettling dreams as a result of Parkinson’s, before joking that she will sneak the substance through customs from the U.S.

Chatting: The presenter wondered whether it is harder for the partner of someone with Parkinson’s disease than the suffer, leading him to meet Sharon Osbourne , whose husband Ozzy, 73, also suffers from the neurological condition

Humour: She discussed how the Black Sabbath star uses cannabidiol, known as CBD, because, like Jeremy, he experiences unsettling dreams as a result of Parkinson’s, before joking that she will sneak the substance through customs from the U.S

She told Jeremy: ‘[Ozzy] was always on something, he always loved to dabble with the old drugs.

‘But now he takes this stuff at night. What’s this stuff that everybody smokes? Marijuana. It is something from that — Cannabidiol.

‘I’ll bring some over for you, you’ll love it. I’ll bring it back for you, Jeremy. I’ll probably get arrested coming through customs — but that’s nothing new.’

The former Newsnight presenter jumped at the opportunity, declaring that he’s ‘on for it’, with Sharon insisting he must try physiotherapy to get his ‘a**e in gear’.

Jeremy also asked Sharon whether it is harder for those looking after someone with Parkinson’s, than actually having the disease – something she disagreed with.

Hard times: Speaking about Ozzy, she emotionally sad: ‘When I look at my husband, my heart breaks for him, I’m sad for myself to see him that way, but what he goes through is worse. When I look at him and he doesn’t know, I’m like crying’

Speaking about Ozzy, she emotionally sad: ‘I just think of my husband, and like you, who was very energetic, loved to go out for walks, did a two-hour show on stage every night, running around like a crazy man. 

‘Suddenly, your life just stops – life as you knew it. When I look at my husband, my heart breaks for him, I’m sad for myself to see him that way, but what he goes through is worse. When I look at him and he doesn’t know, I’m like crying.’

Jeremy also asked Sharon the positives about the disease, to which she responded: ‘The positive thing is we spend much more time together as a family and I love my husband more than I do three years ago.’

She also asked Jeremy: ‘Do you do physio every day?’, to which he replied that he does but not ‘every day’.

Sharon quipped: ‘You bloody well should! You’ve got to get your arse in gear!’ 

Dreams: After meeting with Sharon, Jeremy also headed to King’s College London to speak to a fellow Parkinson’s sufferer and a doctor about his vivid dreams from the disease

After meeting with Sharon, Jeremy also headed to King’s College London to speak to a fellow Parkinson’s sufferer and a doctor about his vivid dreams from the disease.

He was told that hallucinations and psychotic symptoms are not uncommon for Parkinson’s sufferers at the later stages as he spoke about having vidid dreams himself.

In another scene, Jeremy took part in a ballet class for Parkinson’s sufferers as he visited the English National Ballet. 

Dancing is said to increase postural stability and increase confidence for those with the disease.

Dancing: In another scene, Jeremy took part in a ballet class for Parkinson’s sufferers as he visited the English National Ballet 

As he tried to keep up with the choreography, he commented that it is ‘very difficult’ to Paul Mayhew Archer, a co-writer on the popular comedy Vicar of Dibley.

Paul replied: ‘Because we’re thinking so hard about what we’re doing, I forget I have Parkinson’s. And that’s fantastic.’

Speaking to the group after the class, Jeremy said he did enjoy the class but admitted he found it ’embarrassing’. 

When asked if he enjoyed it, he said: ‘I did, I enjoyed it very much! I thought it would be very embarrassing and it was. I felt a bit of a fool though.’

Elsewhere, he also headed to Manchester University to meet Joy Milne, who claims to have the extraordinary ability to smell Parkinson’s and even pre-diagnose people with the condition.

Trying something new: As he tried to keep up with the choreography, he commented that it is ‘very difficult’ to Paul Mayhew Archer, a co-writer on the popular comedy Vicar of Dibley

Professor Perdita Barran explained that they had given Joy T-shirts worn by both people with Parkinson’s and people without, saying she got them all correct, and claimed she even pre-diagnosed one person.

Joy, whose husband had Parkinson’s disease, told Jeremy that he has the ‘Parkinson’s smell’ and that he is at a ‘high two’ out of four, to Jeremy’s amusement.

Jeremy then went on to meet with Jane Asher from Parkinson’s UK, where he signed a document saying he would donate his brain to research the disease after his death.

Jane also told Jeremy to keep active and moving, prompting him to visit Bishopswood Bowling Club in Finchley, London.

Interesting: Elsewhere, he also headed to Manchester University to meet Joy Milne, who claims to have the extraordinary ability to smell Parkinson’s and even pre-diagnose people with the condition 

Speaking to other men with Parkinson’s, Jeremy commented that his Parkinson’s disease makes him ‘tired all the time’, to which the other men agreed with him as they discussed their symptoms.

They all told him the importance of staying active to manage his symptoms, but Jeremy amusingly said he associates bowls with ‘old people’.

One of the men humorously replied: ‘Jeremy that is what we sort of are.’

They all urged him to enjoy his life and try to focus on the current moment, with an ends credits clip revealing that Jeremy has joined a bowls club since the programme aired.

Technique: Joy, whose husband had Parkinson’s disease, told Jeremy that he has the ‘Parkinson’s smell’ and that he is at a ‘high two’ out of four, to Jeremy’s amusement 

Big decisions: Jeremy then went on to meet with Jane Asher from Parkinson’s UK, where he signed a document saying he would donate his brain to research the disease after his death

As he spoke about his decision to leave University Challenge, he also touched on losing his train of thought due to the Parkinson’s disease. 

He said: ‘What was I talking about? This is typical of f***ing Parkinson’s!’

Jeremy admitted he had been unsure about whether to step down as host of University Challenge or not. Jeremy revealed he was stepping back from the show in August. 

‘I always think if you’re scared of making a decision, do it,’ he said in the documentary.

Jeremy said that although the University Challenge had been ‘brilliant’ with him throughout his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he said he decided he needed to step back from the role. 

Exercise: Jane also told Jeremy to keep active and moving, prompting him to visit Bishopswood Bowling Club in Finchley, London

Supportive: Speaking to other men with Parkinson’s, Jeremy commented that his Parkinson’s disease makes him ‘tired all the time’, to which the other men agreed with him as they discussed their symptoms

‘The University Challenge people have been brilliant, but I do think I ought to stop doing it. It will be sad but nobody is indispensable. It will become obvious there is something funny, or unusual about me,’ he explained as the documentary came to a close.

An end credits clip revealed that Jeremy is set to film his last ever University Challenge episode on October 15, after more than 20 years helming the show.

His documentary comes after Jeremy announced last May that he had been diagnosed with the degenerative condition.

But the University Challenge host then said remembering that many of his predecessors were dead by his age makes him feel as though he has been ‘let off’ by getting the illness.

Humour: They all told him the importance of staying active to manage his symptoms, but Jeremy amusingly said he associates bowls with ‘old people’

What was I talking about? This is typical of f***ing Parkinson’s!’: As he spoke about his decision to leave University Challenge, he also touched on losing his train of thought due to the Parkinson’s disease

As a result, the former Newsnight host has since reflected on how he has been putting his conservative ‘wet Tory’ politics down to going ‘gaga’ for years.

Writing in Saga magazine, he said: ‘When I was an irritating young gob on a stick, I used to argue that conservatism was brought about by loss of brain cells.

‘For years now I have happily stood up at public events and declared that the reason I nowadays confess to being a wet Tory is entirely the consequence of going gaga.

‘The moment when you can’t recall your bank-card pin is the reminder that everything comes at a price.

‘I have been annoyed enough by Microsoft while putting down these paltry thoughts that I confess to pining for the days of typewriters when mistakes were mechanical rather than existential.

Leaving: Jeremy said that although the University Challenge had been ‘brilliant’ with him throughout his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he said he decided he needed to step back from the role

Ending: An end credits clip revealed that Jeremy is set to film his last ever University Challenge episode on October 15, after more than 20 years helming the show

‘Why do you persist in doing this to me?’ is my repeated cry. The screen always remains annoyingly indifferent. (How marvellous it would be, just once, if it replied by asking what I really wanted it to do.)

Local radio to leading Newsnight: Jeremy Paxman’s career

  • 1972: BBC Radio Brighton
  • 1977: At BBC in London
  • 1979: Panorama
  • 1984: Six O’Clock News
  • 1986: BBC1’s Breakfast Time
  • 1989: Newsnight presenter
  • 1994: University Challenge 

‘But then I recall that by my age, most of my ancestors – a long line of illiterate peasants on both sides were dead. I’ve been let off lightly with Parkinson’s.’

Jeremy has previously said that his symptoms are ‘mild.’  

He said back in May: ‘I can confirm I have recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I am receiving excellent treatment and my symptoms are currently mild.

‘I plan to continue broadcasting and writing for as long as they’ll have me and have written about my diagnosis in more detail for the June issue of the marvellous Saga Magazine. I will not be making any further comment.’

The presenter was seen out in Manchester last year using a walking stick after breaking his ribs in a horrifying fall during a dog walk.

Born in Leeds, he started his career in 1972 on the BBC’s graduate trainee programme, working in local radio and reporting on the Troubles in Belfast.

Shortly after moving to London in 1977, he transferred from Tonight to Panorama, before stints on the Six O’Clock News and BBC One’s Breakfast Time.

He became a presenter of Newsnight in 1989, a position he would hold until June 2014 during which time he interviewed high-profile figures from politics and culture.

After 25 years in the job, Jeremy presented a programme including an interview with then London mayor Boris Johnson, while they both rode a tandem bicycle.

Well-known: Paxman presented the BBC’s current affairs programme, Newsnight, from 1989 to 2014, during which time he gained a reputation as a ferocious interviewer

Jeremy has also presented University Challenge since 1994, making him the longest serving current quizmaster on UK TV.

Last month, the presenter looked frail as he used a walking stick in Manchester – just weeks after breaking his ribs in a horrifying fall during a dog walk.

He leaned on the walking aid as he was escorted into the TV studios by a co-worker – after revealing he has suffered a nasty tumble when his dog Derek got startled by a squirrel and pulled on his lead.

He held on to a detective novel, The Searcher, by Tana French as he headed to work at University Challenge.

WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? 

Broadcaster Jeremy Paxman has revealed he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but what are the causes and symptoms, and how is it treated?   

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects parts of the brain.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS says there are three major symptoms, including tremors or shaking, slowness of movement and muscle stiffness.

Other symptoms include problems with balance, loss of smell, nerve pain, excessive sweating and dizziness.

Some people can also experience lack of sleep, excessive production of saliva and problems swallowing, causing malnutrition and dehydration.

What are the early signs? 

 Symptoms start gradually, sometimes beginning with a barely noticeable tremor in just one part of the body.

In the early stages, people may show little or no expression, and their arms may not swing when they walk.

Speech can also become soft or slurred, with the condition worsening over time.

What are the causes?

Scientists believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors are the cause of Parkinson’s disease.

It occurs after a person experiences loss of nerve cells in a part of their brain.

However, it is not known why the loss of nerve cells associated with the condition takes place.

Scientists say genetics cause about 10 to 15% of Parkinson’s, and can therefore run in families.

Other factors attributed to causing the condition include environmental problems such as pollution, though such links are inconclusive, the NHS says.

How is it diagnosed?

No tests can conclusively show if a person has the disease, but doctors can make a diagnosis based on symptoms, medical history and a physical examination.

A specialist will ask the person to write or draw, walk or speak to check for any common signs of the condition.

They may even check for difficulty making facial expressions and slowness of limb movement.

How many people are affected?

Around 145,000 people live with Parkinson’s disease in the UK.

What happens if someone is diagnosed?

According to Parkinson’s UK, it is a legal requirement to contact the DVLA, as a diagnosed person will need to have a medical or driving assessment.

The organisation also advises people to contact any insurance providers and find out about financial support available.

People are also encouraged to partake in more exercise.

Can it be treated?

Although there is no cure, a number of treatments are available to help reduce the symptoms.

The three main remedies include medication, exercise and therapy, which can help people in different ways. 

What medication is available and what are the side effects?

Medication can be helpful in improving the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as shaking and movement problems.

There are three main types which are commonly used, levodopa, dopamine agonist or a MAO-B inhibitor.

Each can affect people in different ways.

The drugs do have some side effects, including impulsive and compulsive behaviour, hallucinations, sleep issues and blood pressure changes.

What therapy is available?

There are several therapies available to those with Parkinson’s through the NHS.

Among them are physiotherapy to reduce muscle stiffness, occupational therapy to help with completing day-to-day tasks and speech and language coaching.

Does this change the way you live?

Most people’s life expectancy will not change a great deal, though more advanced symptoms can lead to increased disability and poor health.

It can also cause some cognitive issues and changes to mood and mental health.

Those with Parkinson’s are encouraged to exercise more often, with scientists saying 2.5 hours of exercise a week is enough to slow the progression of symptoms.

Parkinson’s affects one in 500 people and causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.

It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.

Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.

There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.  

The disease claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016.

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