In a new interview with People magazine, GUNS N’ ROSES bassist Duff McKagan spoke about his ongoing struggles with panic attacks which have plagued him since age 16.
“They always said panic disorder is a symptom of depression, but I [didn’t realize I had] depression until I was about 50,” he said. “I had this massive fall off the cliff, and it lasted about three weeks. It wasn’t anything going on in my life, my life was great. It’s a chemical fucking imbalance. It’s not my fault. When people think of depression, it’s like, ‘Oh, snap out of it, man.’ I couldn’t drive or fucking tie my shoes! And it’s happened to me a couple of times. It’s broken a couple of times. I’ve sought and received help, and I have a weekly help. And I had to medicate through that, and that’s totally fine. I needed it.”
McKagan admitted that he still deals with panic disorder, is a well-recognized form of anxiety disorder affecting approximately 2% to 3% of Americans annually, while he is on the road with GUNS N’ ROSES.
“I’ve had some panic attacks out here, but not the darkness,” he said. “Two of the guys I’m with, I’ve been with since I was 20 years old, and we’ve been through so much together that it just feels like a place of safety for me. We’ve seen so much that we can’t explain to anybody else. I can’t even explain to [my wife] Susan what it was like. I can tell her a story, but those two other guys truly understand, and they’ve seen me having panic attacks since we met.”
Earlier this year, McKagan revealed that he wrote the title track of his “This Is The Song” solo EP while suffering from a panic attack. In a letter he shared to his fans, he said: “‘This Is The Song’ was written in the middle of a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t see straight, and lately, I have thankfully found my acoustic guitar as a refuge. If I just hold on to that guitar, play chords, and hum melodies, I can start to climb my way out of that hole. For those of you who have never experienced something like this, count yourselves blessed. To those of you who recognize what I am talking about: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! “
The 59-year-old musician also shared how he has suffered from panic disorder since he was a teen, adding in his letter: “I have dealt with a certain variety of panic disorder since the age of 16, and in these recent years, my panic disorder has morphed and twisted and brought along some darkness that seems to appear out of absolutely nowhere. It can be terrifying.”
In a separate interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, McKagan elaborated on the songwriting process for the “This Is The Song” title track, which was released in May 2023 for Mental Health Awareness Month.
“An active panic attack was happening, and I discovered something in writing that song I was writing myself. I was playing my guitar, just holding onto it to get me through this panic attack,” Duff recalled. “I’ve had them since I was 16. I don’t get them a ton anymore; I’ve sought and received help. I got that pinging of a panic attack, and I was up in bed with my wife. I don’t like to tell her all the time when I’m having panic attacks, because she gets worried. So, I will often just get up and go down and get some water. I’ll go and deal and tear off my clothes and pour water on myself, whatever I gotta do. But this time, I went and got on my acoustic guitar, and it was during the COVID time. I grabbed onto the guitar and I wrote this chord. … I started strumming chords and [sang], ‘This song is going to save my life.'”
Duff added: “I have other things that come as a super-killer side thing of panic attacks, like, there’s depression. Like, what the fuck? Where’d this come from? I found out depression has nothing to do with what’s going on in your life. It’s not a choice. It’s definitely a malaise that you just comes on. Mine is chemical imbalance crap. It’s just what it is. It’s my thing.”
McKagan released third solo album, “Lighthouse”, last month.