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In the News: Mischa Barton Opens Up About Her ‘full-on breakdown’

Life after “The O.C.” has been rocky, to say the least, for Mischa Barton.

Ten years ago, Mischa Barton was the hottest starlet on television. Then came partying, drugs, and a terrifying trip to the psych ward. For the first time, the O.C. actress opens up in this week’s issue of PEOPLE about what really happened.

In 2007, she was arrested for DUI. Then in 2009, scared by her increasingly erratic behavior and worried she was in no condition to fly to New York for a scheduled appearance the next week, those close to her staged an intervention. Not long after the meeting, Barton blacked out and was rushed to the hospital. In the frenzy, Barton threatened suicide, and she was placed under a 5150 hold.

“It was a full-on breakdown,” she tells PEOPLE, speaking about the events in detail for the first time in this week’s cover story. “I was under enormous pressure.”

The actress said she was never actually suicidal, just “overworked and depressed. But one slip of the tongue in a heightened moment, and you find yourself in that situation.”

Yet that situation also allowed her to gain some clarity about her life, she told the magazine.

“I was deeply hurt at first,” Barton recalled, “and then I accepted this was time I needed to be away from work, my family and all the pressure. I had been through the wringer.”

She retreated to Paris for more than a year, and then London. “I needed to be on my own and get healthy,” Barton says. But that led to new criticism when she noticeably gained weight. “When you’re 16, you’re not what you are at 25,” she says matter-of-factly. A size 0 in her O.C. days, “I was really young and just had not filled out at all. Not everybody stays the same body type. It was always, ‘She’s too skinny, she must be sick.’ Then it was, ‘She’s too big.’ I was never the right weight.”

Today, Barton says, “I just try to be balanced.” And she notes that she’s happily single. “I’ve been in relationship after relationship,” she says. “I love men, but it’s kind of nice to be by yourself and take that leap of faith.” Such self-reliance has been hard-earned. “I needed to take this time for me,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot. I’m stronger now, and I’m excited for what’s ahead.”

The future does look bright for Barton. In addition to her new supernatural thriller, I Will Follow You Into The Dark, she filmed a TV pilot with Frankie Jonas, The Gutsy Frog, in which she plays a crush-worthy schoolteacher. She also has a London boutique, which carries her new makeup collection, a handbag line and some her favorite clothing styles. “I’ve learned a lot,” she says, and she’s proud of her choice to finally speak out about her struggles: “I’m stronger now.”

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