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Vacations, Weekends Make You Sick?


And it's not that they are more involved in their jobs, he says. "But they are more preoccupied with work in general and have more trouble relaxing. They have trouble dealing with free time, often because they feel guilty," he says.

In fact, the leisure sickness group actually showed a stronger appreciation for vacations and weekends than did the others, he says -- they just weren't able to enjoy their time off.

"Their weekend symptoms they attributed to their own personality traits or work styles, as well as to conditions at work," he says. "Their vacation symptoms were due to the vacation itself -- the stress of preparing for travel made them ill, and they thought more about their jobs than the other group."

Such people typically are perfectionists who are not very assertive, but have a higher sense of responsibility than others, Vingerhoets says.

Is there hope for the leisurely sick? Vingerhoets takes cues from the 20 who reported spontaneous recovery from the condition.

"Most frequently, they reported getting another job, changing their attitude toward their work and work in general, and paying more attention to signals from the body," he says.

Weekend exercise helps, and so does counseling, he tells WebMD.

"It may help to take another view of your life, of your work situation, and see things in a different perspective, give more weight to other things that are important in life," he says.

Vingerhoets is right on target, says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor and chief psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

"There's this workaholism, this perfectionistic feeling that nothing you do is ever good enough," she says. "You can't take the weekends off or go on vacation because the work is never done -- which it isn't if you're a perfectionist -- or you don't feel like you deserve to relax."

It's probable that the pattern for these people started much earlier, when they were children, Kaslow tells WebMD.

"My guess is that, for a lot of these people, while they were growing up there was this negative connotation with relaxing," she says. "Either it was the work ethic or their families weren't very fun to be around. This is the kid who can't stand to be with his family because it makes him have a headache or stomachache. They don't know how to have fun or relax, and what was supposed to be fun or relaxing as a kid was stress-producing.

"Of course, there's hope for these people," she continues. "Just as we know that migraines get better when tension is reduced, this is a true disorder that can be treated."

Sending people on more vacations or encouraging mental health days won't work, she tells WebMD.

"My guess is that these leisure sick people don't find time off rewarding. Having downtime brings up issues," she says. "If you're sitting at work busy all day, you don't have time to think about stuff. But during downtime, marital conflicts come up, tensions about money, or childrearing or whatever is bothering you. You can put them on the backburner at work, but you can't when you're not working."

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