Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Dr. Eugene Schoenfeld recently said in your column that most psychiatrists deny that chronic fatigue is a "real disease." I write to offer a different opinion, shared by a growing number of physicians who have studied the scientific literature on chronic fatigue syndrome -- which now numbers several thousand research articles.

There is no evidence of any psychiatric disorder in a sizable number of patients with this illness. However, in laboratory tests, there is evidence of abnormalities in the brain and immune system of many of these patients. The immune system abnormalities, fortunately, do not seem to make patients vulnerable to infections. I highlight those studies in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October 1997.

We still do not understand the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, but studies around the world show that the illness involves real changes in the bodies of many patients. It is not, as Dr. Schoenfeld seems to believe, "all in their heads." -- ANTHONY L. KOMAROFF, M.D., PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL

DEAR DR. KOMAROFF: Thank you for sharing your professional opinion with me, and for offering other physicians a reliable source of information about chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome. I am pleased that advances in understanding this disease have been made. I know my readers will be also.

DEAR ABBY: I am responding to "Feeling Worthless in New Hampshire," who wrote that her husband didn't value her because he brings in the money while she stays home managing the household and caring for the children.

As a child and as a teen-ager, I watched my mother care for my siblings and me and didn't think anything of it. Now the tide has turned. Because of an injury, I remain at home while my wife works. I had never realized how exhausting it can be to handle everything at home. I have a newfound respect for all women who remain at home while the "man of the house" works, not to mention those women who work and manage their homes, too. Even though my wife is tired after a day at the office, she pitches in around the house far more than I did when I was working on the outside. I wonder how many men come home and consider giving their wives a break by helping out.

"Worthless" should be proud that she manages one of the most important "corporations" in the world -- the family. My hat is off to all stay-at-home mothers. I now have more respect for them and for what I took for granted all those years. -- STAY-AT-HOME DAD

DEAR DAD: My hat is also off to them, and to YOU as well, for saying so!

DEAR ABBY: There are a few words in our wonderful language that irritate me, and I would think your many readers have their pet peeve words as well. Why don't you take a reader survey on the subject? Maybe I'm not the only one whose blood pressure goes up from certain words.

For starters, here's a short, homemade poem:

There are words in English that irk us all,

From me you'll get no quibbling.

And the one that drives me up a wall

Is when a kid is called a "sibling."


DEAR CHARLES: Cute! Readers?

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600