It’s not easy being a celebrity. In fact, it can be downright exhausting.

They’re overworked, some of them are extremely overpaid – “Mo Money Mo Problems,” anyone? – and good help, the kind that doesn’t go running to the tabloids with lurid tales about strange diets and off-color personal habits, is so hard to find.

Exhaustion among the fabulous is fast becoming an epidemic: In recent months, it’s been cited – initially, anyway – as the cause of cancellations by Lindsay Lohan, Eminem, Gwen Stefani and Hilary Duff, among others.

But what exactly does it mean? Is it something that can be cured by spending a few days in bed – or is it just a get-out-of-jail-free card to camouflage a different problem? Like substance abuse, psychological issues, pregnancy and other things far more titillating than this intentionally vague catch-all ailment?

Let’s take a look at some of the recent months’ most severe cases – and, when we’ve been able to find out, what was really going on.

Victim: Britney Spears

What happened: She took another one of her “breaks.”

They said: In a post on her Web site, Britney said that she wants to focus on being a wife and mother. “My prerogative right now is to just chill and let all of the other overexposed blondes on the cover of Us Weekly be your entertainment. Good luck girls!”

But could it be … ? : Maybe she knew it would make her the object of public fascination again: During her “time off,” she’s debuted some new tracks on a Los Angeles radio station, directed her first video, promoted her reality show, “Chaotic,” put out a perfume line and a remix album. She has also given cover-story interviews to People for every milestone of her married life thus far, from engagement to wedding to baby shower to first official baby photos. This from the girl who vowed, “I will refrain from discussing my private life in interviews. It will be expressed solely through art.”

The solution: More like her private life has become her art. Britney’s hit the PR jackpot: taking a “break” has ensured that Us Weekly will keep her on the cover all year round. “Time off” could be the next big thing!

Note: Visit to see who are they other celebrities included in the ‘list’.

-Jennifer Vineyard

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