The Beck Depression Inventory, or BDI, is a 21-question test
designed to assess the degree and severity of depressive symptoms. Originally
developed in 1961, the inventory has been revised twice, with the most recent
edition published in 1996. The BDI is designed to be conducted by a
knowledgeable mental health care provider, and is not recommended for
self-administration. There is also an abbreviated version of the quiz, intended
to aid primary care physicians in detecting initial symptoms of depression.
How is the Beck
Depression Inventory used?
The Beck Depression Inventory consists of 21 questions that
determine the severity of specific depressive symptoms over a two-week span.
The first half of the BDI focuses on psychological symptoms, such as suicidal
thoughts, guilt, pessimism, mood, and irritability. The latter questions
evaluate physical symptoms, like insomnia, appetite, fatigue, and weight loss.
Each question has four possible answers to choose from, and
each answer is assigned a numerical value from 0-3, according to the severity
of the particular symptom. A patient's total score indicates the scope of his
or her depression, based on the following ranges:
0 - 13 Minimal - Mild Depression
14 - 19 Mild Depression
20 - 28 Moderate Depression
29 - 63 Severe Depression
Although it takes only 5-10 minutes to complete, the Beck
Depression Inventory allows professionals to not only ascertain the severity of
specific symptoms, but also more accurately diagnose different types of
depression, such as major depressive disorder and dysthymia (a chronic but less
severe grade of depression).
What are the
limitations of the Beck Depression Inventory?
Despite its proven reliability and popularity among mental
health professionals, the Beck Depression Inventory does have its limitations.
For starters, the current edition is not available to the general public, and
is only intended for use under the supervision of a trained professional.
Because the inventory is based on a patient's reports,
inaccurate responses or misunderstood questions can skew the test results.
Also, distinct medical conditions can distort the validity of a diagnosis. For
example, patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome might report high
levels of irritability and exhaustion, which do not necessarily reflect the
severity of their depression.
Despite its limitations, the BDI is widely regarded in the
medical community as an accurate screening tool for depression, and its results
considered over 90% reliable when compared to clinical assessments.