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Girls and Hannah's OCD


Girls is a show that I was sucked into from the first episode - which is a rare treat. I was in awe of Lena's writing, directing and performing and a little bit/a lot in love with Jessa. It was a fun and easy half-hour watch that made me laugh and kept me entertained. When I hit episode 8 of Season 2, thinks took an interesting and more serious turn in that Hannah's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was suddenly introduced.

After finishing watching Season 2, I was curious to see what people made of this storyline and the representation of OCD. So I did a little Twitter search and sure enough reams of tweets came up. I wasn't too surprised to see that the tweets largely consisted of people's confusion and frustration at this sudden appearance of Hannah's OCD. Devout fans were critical of the direction the episode took, and quite taken aback by it.

Admittedly when episode 8 started and Hannah was doing her head turns and counting it seemed out of place: too new to make sense. I think people thought that if she had OCD, why not from the beginning? Why now?

The thing is though, surely something like this could be easily experienced as a teenager, go away and then come back at times of stress - ie the pressure of having to suddenly write an actual book after being a casual essay writer.

This made sense to me. Some people experience different mental health problems that pass and then recur, whether that's depression, an eating disorder or OCD - and once it's back, it's well and truly back. Perhaps we could have seen some glimpses of the condition, that we would look back on and think - that makes sense in retrospect.

While people may have wanted a drip-feed of clues for this to be a plausible narrative arc, life isn't always like that. People don't experience mental health conditions in one way. Equally people find out about their loved one's mental health conditions in different ways. You could always know someone has this condition, or it could be a sudden revelation, either through words or behaviours, that's difficult to process.

When people have no idea someone suffers with a condition such as this, people are often really taken aback - thinking they had no idea, she always seemed fine etc. When actually the condition may have gone away, been well hidden or well managed and it's only at the point that the person is back to really struggling that the condition becomes so physically evident - as we saw in episode 8.

Lena Dunham talks about having struggled with this herself and so to me arguing about how realistic the portrayal of the condition is seems odd. I love that she is tackling the stigma and misunderstanding around the condition here. Like she says, the people that talk about being excessively clean do not necessarily have OCD. Her portrayal shows just how debilitating the condition can be - whether having to stay up until 3am to complete rituals, feeling social anxiety as others pick up on behaviours or not being able to complete work or even leave the house as the condition is compounded by stress in a vicious cycle.

So kudos to Lena to bringing the reality of this often misunderstood condition to light, and also for getting people talking - that can only be a good thing.