Actress Mischa Barton had quite a fall from grace in very public fashion. When she starred on 'The O.C.' in the '00s, she quickly became a star and a style darling at the tender age of 17. She slowly and steadily began her tumble down the Hollywood ladder.

In her new PEOPLE cover story, Barton, 27, discusses how the Hollywood machine and her partying caused her spiral out of control and become a bit of a starlet cautionary tale.

"It was a full-on breakdown," she confessed. "I was under enormous pressure."

"We thought, 'Work hard, play hard,'" Barton recalled about her years in the spotlight.

She was arrested for DUI in 2007 and she blacked out while on a sedative and ended up in an involuntary 5150 hold in a psych ward after she threatened to kill herself in 2009. Her parents tried to intervene, too.

After all this drama, she took stock of her life and her career and focused on getting healthy. She gained some weight and then critics pounced. "It was always, 'She's too skinny, she must be sick,'" said Barton. "Then it was, 'She's too big.' I was never the right weight."

Barton has a lot of projects on the horizon, including the film 'I Will Follow You Into the Dark' and a role in the pilot 'The Gutsy Frog.' She owns a boutique in London, which sells her new makeup collection.

The actress is not interested in a pity party, either. "I've learned a lot," she said. "I'm stronger now."

The PEOPLE cover lands on Friday, Oct. 18.

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