What Is the Beck Depression Scale?


Quick Answer

The Beck Depression Inventory is a 21-question self-reporting assessment that tests for the presence and severity of depression, according to the American Psychological Association. The test runs approximately 10 minutes long and has a mean consistency of 0.86.

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The Beck Depression Inventory assesses how closely an individual’s behavioral symptoms match the criteria for depression as described in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, informs the Medical University of South Carolina. Question items address changes in sleep, appetite, energy and mental concentration. The test asks the individual to rate how well each question or statement applies to the way he has felt over the past two weeks using a four-point rating scale for symptom severity.

Higher overall scores on the BDI assessment are associated with more depressive symptoms, adds the Medical University of South Carolina. The overall assessment score is based on the sum of the scores from each of the 21-question items. A total BDI score of 0 to 13 indicates minimal depression, a score of 14 to 19 indicates mild depression, 20 to 28 indicates moderate depression and scores of 29 to 63 indicate severe symptoms of depression.

The BDI assessment is highly sensitive at measuring the severity of depressive symptoms but is not meant to serve as the sole instrument of diagnosis, cautions the Medical University of South Carolina. Because the assessment is self-reported, the results are susceptible to exaggeration or understatement by the individual undergoing the assessment.

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