Fatigue is a main feature of the burnout syndrome but also very common in other psychiatric disorders such as major depression and anxiety disorders. This raises the question of whether the level and appraisal of fatigue is experienced differently by individuals suffering from burnout than by those exhibiting anxiety disorders and major depression. If fatigue is experienced differently in burnout compared with other disorders, this may clarify why fatigue is the main feature of the burnout syndrome. This knowledge may lead to the application of specific therapeutic interventions aimed at the experience of fatigue in burnout. In the present study, we investigated whether fatigue is experienced differently in burnout patients than in patients suffering from anxiety disorders or major depression. We presented 73 burnout patients, 67 depressed patients, 57 patients with an anxiety disorder and 127 healthy participants with a rating scale containing statements about the fatigue–performance relationship, and we assessed the level of fatigue, depression and anxiety. The level of fatigue reported by burnout patients was high but did not differ from that of the other patient groups. The appraisal of fatigue also did not differ among the patient groups. The burnout patients did not appraise their fatigue as a result of unrewarding activities nor did they catastrophize fatigue in an exceptional way. Thus, the level of fatigue and the appraisal of fatigue may be less relevant to the understanding of the specific pathological processes associated with burnout than is often presumed. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Key Practitioner Message The level of fatigue and the appraisal of fatigue in burnout patients do not differ from those reported in patients with major depression or anxiety disorders ,and may therefore, not be relevant to the understanding of the specific pathological processes associated with burnout. General level of fatigue appeared to predict worrying about fatigue and fear of social rejection, regardless of diagnosis. Fatigue is a feature of several psychiatric disorders. Understanding fatigue may help to gain insight into pathological processes underlying a range of disorders.