Because depression is commonly observed in the chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), the present study sought to determine whether the symptom pattern is similar to that seen in clinically depressed subjects (DEP). Individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) were chosen as an additional comparison group because MS is a fatiguing illness of known organic etiology. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was used to compare categories of depressive symptomatology. Absolute scores on the BDI were higher for the depressed group on mood and self-reproach symptoms, but were not higher than the CFS group on somatic and vegetative items. Analysis of symptoms as a percentage of total BDI score revealed no significant differences in mood or vegetative items among the three groups. The CFS and MS groups exhibited a significantly lower percentage of self-reproach symptoms than DEP, whereas the DEP group showed a lower percentage of somatic symptoms than the CFS and MS groups.