Guns N' Roses Bassist Duff McKagan Talks Depression, Anxiety

By David Konow 09/12/17

"I’m a strong dude. I think positive and I apply a lot of principles to my life...but when I had depression, I couldn’t be any of those things; I couldn’t be anything.”

Duff McKagan

Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan recently appeared on an episode of Talk is Jerichoa podcast hosted by famous wrestler and heavy metal singer Chris Jericho—where he discussed mental health, the passing of Chris Cornell and his own battle with depression. 

McKagan, who has admittedly battled anxiety issues for much of his life, admitted that he was shocked by the death of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell back in May. "If there was depression involved, then all bets are off," he revealed on the podcast. "I'm not gonna judge 'em anyhow. I've been in and out of alcohol and drug addiction, and I've got it all. So I'm not one to judge. But if there was depression involved, then it's a real thing, 'cause I understand." 

He went on to share that since the age of 16, he's been dealing with a “panic disorder" that was linked to depression. "I have panic attacks here and there, like in the weirdest places ever, and I’ve learned to deal with them," he told Jericho. "I learned by the time I was 20 I’m not gonna die from a panic attack; you feel like you’re going to.”

McKagan revealed that while he does not suffer from chronic depression, he's had “little touches of depression in the last seven, eight years”—but one depressive episode which occurred about five years ago really caught him off guard.

McKagan recalled being at the movies with his wife when he was hit with “an attack of depression, just a feeling of moroseness."

"We got out of the theater, and I’m shaking," he continued. "But [my wife] drove me home, my friend came over, and we got somebody else on the phone, and it was depression. And it passed. And then I went and saw some people about it and I had a couple more of those episodes.”

Once the wave of depression hit, McKagan realized how helpless it makes people. “You can’t breathe, you can’t eat…all your bodily functions just go; you have no control. And I’m a strong dude. I think positive and I apply a lot of principles to my life... I can see and deal with shit. But when I had depression, I couldn’t be any of those things; I couldn’t be anything.”

Back in 2012, McKagan wrote an op-ed for Seattle Weekly about getting hit with a depressive episode after 9/11. “My own place on this earth seemed muddy and without bedrock. And once the door was opened to depression in my case, the monster became a living thing in my life," McKagan wrote. "I could look at it and examine it after time, but in that initial instant, I did not see a light at the end of the tunnel… There is a way out of depression—you just got to get to a place to examine the monster.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.