Duff McKagan Says He Took Control of Panic Attacks
Duff McKagan described how he learned to deal with the panic attacks that were once his “greatest weakness” and turned the situation to his favor.
The Guns N’ Roses bassist said he'd spent too many years trying to manage the problem using alcohol, but things changed when he learned the ukidokan form of karate in later years.
“Probably my greatest weakness – I don’t like to call it that anymore, that’s part of the way I’ve gotten over it – at 16 I started having panic disorder,” McKagan told Forbes in a new feature. “My first one happened out of nowhere. I was in the shower at my mom’s house. The floor just sunk down three feet and I thought there was an earthquake or something. It was actually a panic attack.”
As the condition persevered, McKagan “self-medicated those things in my 20s with a ton of alcohol,” he recalled, noting that it only made things worse because the amount of sugar consumed during drinking made the attacks more frequent.
“Through ukidokan and really measuring these things out and kind of tackling them and taking them face on and figuring out a way through them, it was a weakness I've turned into something that's a teachable moment,” he said.
The discipline helped him when things got worse in recent times. “I can understand a lot more about mental illness and panic disorder that has sides of depression to it that I never experienced until a couple of years ago," he said. "I had a depression attack, which was the worst thing you can ever have. But I've dealt with this thing through ukidokan, and I'm very fortunate to have a very positive force in my life that I can work on these things. ... So my weakness has kind of turned into a a strength. I can help others.”
Elsewhere in the same feature, which explored how more than 60 people in the music industry balance their personal strengths and weaknesses, Heart sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson both cited “idealism” as their “biggest fault” and also their “greatest strength.”
“I will double down on Ann’s answer and further add that idealism led us to follow our original impossible dream against all odds," Nancy explained. "Also after achieving the impossible dream it is always that same idealism that hinders any artist who is expected to continue on a safe and predictable path.”