Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI Test)

Feelings like guilt, loneliness, and fear can make a serious impact on a person’s ability to feel hopeful and happy. This can be caused by big events, small events, or just being a human. 

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.  Emergency hotlines have been experiencing high call volumes since the turn of the decade. But is it time for you to seek help? Are you simply going through routine “ups and downs,” or could your feelings be a symptom of a more serious mood disorder? 

I’m not a psychiatrist, nor am I a medical professional. But I have a tool for you to begin assessing your mental health and whether you may be experiencing depression. This tool, the Beck Depression Inventory, is one of the top tools used to assess a person’s mental health and determine whether they are experiencing depression. 

What Is the Beck Depression Inventory?

The Beck Depression Inventory was first published in 1961. It was created by Aaron T. Beck, one of the pioneers of cognitive behavioral therapy. The Beck Depression Inventory, as well as the Beck Hopelessness Scale, Beck Anxiety Inventory, and other tools that cognitive behavioral therapists can use in their practices. 

The Beck Depression Inventory marked a significant shift in the way that therapists assessed someone for mood disorders, as well as recognizing the causes of those disorders. 

Psychoanalysis and CBT

Before Beck came along, psychoanalysis was at the forefront of psychology. Freud believed that mood disorders and other symptoms were the result of trauma and experiences found in a person’s unconscious mind. All negative behaviors could point back to the unconscious mind. A therapist would use word association, dream interpretation, and other methods to uncover what was hiding in the unconscious. By unpacking these experiences, the patient may be cured of the mood disorder, and they would no longer think negatively about themselves or the world. 

But Beck had a different theory as to what caused symptoms of depression and other mood disorders. He didn’t believe that the mood disorder caused someone to think bad things. He believed that these bad thoughts caused the mood disorder. 

For example, let’s say someone were to begin thinking “I have made so many mistakes.” They think it over and over, and every time they encounter an opportunity, they think to themselves, “I will just make another mistake.” Beck believed that these thought patterns led to depression. 

This was revolutionary at the time. Therapists began to replace psychoanalysis with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT.) Instead of unpacking a patient’s dreams, they would discover how the patient was talking to themselves. They would look at the ways that the patient perceives certain situations and reflects on their past experiences. Using this information, they could make diagnoses, offer tools, and show a patient how their negative thoughts were causing negative moods and symptoms. 

If you go to a therapist today, you will likely go through a similar experience. And you can thank Aaron T. Beck. 

About the Beck Depression Inventory (Cost and Validity)

The current version of the Beck Depression Inventory is similar to the original version created in 1961, but it has undergone some changes. New versions of the BDI were published in both 1978 and 1996. Experts recommend this tool primarily for adolescents over the age of 13, but it can also be used to assess an adult’s feelings and potential mood disorder. Use it for free on this website or online!

All versions are a self-assessment with 21 questions. Each question consists of four statements, each corresponding with a number from 0-3. 

Here’s an example of one of the questions: 

  • 0 I am not particularly discouraged about the future. 
  • 1 I feel discouraged about the future. 
  • 2 I feel I have nothing to look forward to. 
  • 3 I feel the future is hopeless and that things cannot improve.

Keep track of your answers and add them up at the end. The results will either suggest that you are experiencing:

  • Minimal depression
  • Mild depression
  • Moderate depression
  • Severe depression

There is no need to take the test again and again throughout the week. Even if you are going through general “ups and downs,” you will likely get the same answer if you take the test the next day or the day after. 

Total Score

Level of Depression

1-10

Normal Ups and Downs

11-16

Mild Mood Disturbance

17-20

Borderline Clinical Depression

21-30

Moderate Depression

31-40

Severe Depression

40+

Extreme Depression

The Beck Depression Inventory has been considered extremely reliable, even after it has been translated and distributed around the world. 

How to Use The Beck Depression Inventory Score

Your score might surprise you. It might also reveal something that you might have been thinking, but were nervous to admit. Continue to track your score throughout the year to understand how seasons and life events may affect your mood.

If your score suggests that you are moderately or severely depressed, do not feel guilty asking for help. Do not feel ashamed. The state of the world, the pressure to isolate, and general stress can have serious effects. You are not weak for feeling hopeless, pessimistic, or sad during these times. 

There are many ways to seek treatment for depression and other mood disorders. You can search online for a therapist near you. You can use an app like BetterHealth or Talkspace to reach a professional without leaving your home. If you prefer to be in a group setting, consider looking up support groups in your area. 

In the meantime, take a look at your routine. Are you exercising? Are you taking time to connect with friends and family? Do you have time to read, write, or indulge in hobbies? Small changes to your routine could help you enjoy the day a little bit more.

How to reference this article:

Theodore. (2020, June). Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI Test). Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/becks-depression-inventory/.

About the author 

Theodore

Theodore created PracticalPsychology while in college and has transformed the educational online space of psychology. His goal is to help people improve their lives by understanding how their brains work. 1,700,000 Youtube subscribers and a growing team of psychologists, the dream continues strong!

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