Actress Lena Dunham's battle with obsessive compulsive disorder

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I've recently started reading actress and producer Lena Dunham's autobiography "Not That Kind of Girl," which documents her struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder.

I admire how open Lena is while writing about her OCD, which she was diagnosed with at age 9.

Usually when people think of OCD, they imagine someone who is constantly washing his or her hands until they become red and chapped. But, really, OCD can be any compulsion a person may have.

Compulsion is defined as "an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one's conscious wishes."

The Mayo Clinic characterizes OCD as "unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions)" to ease the stress.

Some examples of obsessions:

• Fear of germs and dirt
• Fear of shaking hands or touching others
• Wanting things orderly and neat
• Thoughts of harming yourself and/or others
• Unwanted/disturbing thoughts about sex

Some examples of compulsion:

• Washing and cleaning
• Counting
• Repeating a prayer or word over and over again
• Checking repeatedly to make sure the door is locked, the stove is turned off, etc.
• Following a strict routine
• Avoiding  situations that can trigger obsessions

Lena said that her compulsion is oversharing, and in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, she said that, as a child, she was afraid to fall asleep, which was when her parents first sent her to see a therapist, and she was also obsessed with the number eight.

"I'd count eight times…. . . . I'd look on both sides of me eight times, I'd make sure nobody was following me down the street, I touched different parts of my bed before I went to sleep," Lena said.

In an interview with NPR, Lena said, "You spend so much of your life, as a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a person with any kind of mental illness, trying to camouflage your habits, trying to appear normal."

She told US Magazine that mediation for about 20 minutes a day helps control her OCD.

"It gathers me up for the day and makes me feel organized, happy and capable of facing the challenges of the world, both internal and external. I feel so lucky that I found it," she said. "I found out there's a way to sort of take this gift that I've been given and give it outward."

The Mayo Clinic also advises people who have been diagnosed with OCD or who show symptoms of the disorder to see a doctor or mental health provider. The two main treatments for OCD are psychotherapy and medications and often treatment is most effective with a combination of these.

Lena is no longer ashamed of her OCD — even creating a character, which she plays on the television show "Girls," who also has the disorder. And I admire her for helping to continue the important subject of mental health and bring awareness.

Lena shows that people who have a mental disorder have nothing to be ashamed of and that it may even be a gift. For Lena, through treatment and mediation, she learned to channel her OCD into her creativity and hard work. Who knows, maybe without it, she wouldn't be where she is today.

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