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Beck Depression Inventory: BDI, BDI-IA, BDI-II, Assements & Impacts in 2021

Beck Depression Inventory: BDI, BDI-IA, BDI-II, Assements & Impacts in 2021
1 Year Ago 833 Reads 9 min read

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders today that many people go through. This disorder affects the behavioral pattern of a human being, and he can even grow suicidal. Depression has numerous types, and a psychiatrist is the one who can treat them efficiently. Many assessment methods are present to measure the intensity of depression a person is facing.

The Beck Depression Inventory is one such evaluation method that medical practitioners commonly apply. This method helps them understand what the problems a patient is going through are. This article will enlighten you with a detailed overview of the beck Depression Overview. So, read it thoroughly and clarify all your doubts regarding this depression assessment method.

What is the Beck Depression Inventory?

The Beck Depression Inventory or BDI is an assessment method to evaluate the most important symptoms of depression. It contains 21 items, and a patient has to rate them all on a scale to help the doctor assess his medical condition. Aaron T. Beck created the beck Depression Inventory long back. Today, BDI is considered one of the vital psychometric tests for determining the intensity of depression in a patient.

Earlier, mental health professionals had difficulties in treating people suffering from depression. This is because they failed to analyze the root cause behind this mental illness. However, the introduction of the Beck Depression Inventory has changed their perspective towards this disorder. Now, they understand that depression is deep-rooted in the thoughts of a patient, and it has nothing to do with external factors.

Depression is a significant issue that has been taking many lives. People often fail to realize if their near ones or they are suffering from this mental disorder. The severity of depression varies from one patient to another, and mental health experts miscalculate several occasions. However, BDI is there to help them assess their patients from all dimensions with the help of 21 multiple-choice questions.

History of BDI

The history of the Beck Depression Inventory goes back to 1961. However, it was revised numerous times since then to create a refined structure. This inventory was always used as a tool for measuring the severity of depression in patients diagnosed with several symptoms of this disorder. However, BDI also found a place in researching the mental health of people who do not exhibit depressive symptoms. It is used as a model to detect clinical depression in children as well.

Mr. Aaron Beck started studying depression in the 1950s and then came up with the novel model called the Beck Depression Inventory. This model helped patients describe their symptoms vividly and then scale them. Thus, the result derived helps reflect on the severity of the symptoms experienced by an individual.

People suffering from depression always go through negative cognitions. The term ‘negative cognition’ refers to the negative thoughts of a person. These thoughts can be dangerous and need immediate attention. Beck studied negative thoughts closely along with their effects on the mental and physical health of a person. He drew an inference that these thoughts are the cause of depression and not the other way.

History of BDI

Different Versions of the Beck Depression Inventory

This 21-item self-assessing set of questions has been revived several times. This has given birth to three different versions of BDI that are discussed below:


In 1961, Beck published the first version of BDI that has 21 questions. These questions revolved around the feeling of the patient in the previous week. All these questions had multiple options for the patient to choose as the answer. For example: if the question was ‘How did you felt the last week?’, the options were:

  1. I feel okay.
  2. I feel sad.
  3. I am always sad, and I cannot get out of it.
  4. I am extremely sad, and it is hard to stay with it.

The number present on the left of each option is the score assigned to it. This means that each answer can be assessed on a scale of zero to three. After the patient finishes taking the test, all the answers are numbered. Then the total score is calculated, and it is compared to a key. This helped in determining the intensity of depression a person is having. Below are the stand cut-off scores for this test:

  1. 0-9: A score between these numbers indicates minimal depression.
  2. 10-18: This range indicates the person has mild depression.
  3. 19-29: On this scale, a person is diagnosed with moderate depression.
  4. 30-63: This is the highest range and indicates the patient is suffering from intense depression.

It is clear from the above scores that the highest a person scores in the test, the more severe depression he is going through. He should get immediate attention from a mental health expert to ensure he can come out of this mental illness. Higher scores are alarming, and psychiatrists followed the test results to determine the best therapy for a patient.

One of the drawbacks of this version of BDI was that more than one option was marked with the same score. This was confusing and prevented evaluators from assessing the test results accurately. Thus, they were unable to determine the exact severity of a patient’s depression on various occasions due to this ambiguity.


BDI-IA is the revised version of BDI, which was developed in the 1970s. Beck copyrighted this version of the Beck Depression Inventory in 1978. This version eliminated the concept of more than one option carrying the same mark. Therefore, people taking the test had to choose the exact feeling in the past two weeks. Moreover, the internal consistency of this version of BDI was better than the previous one.

In this version, all the items present within were inter-related. This made sense and helped the respondent to answer effortlessly. However, this version had some issues that prevented it from becoming the best in class. It had only six DSM-III criteria for depression and missed out on the rest three crucial ones. Thus, Aaron Beck had to revise BDI-IA to come up with a better and more refined version.


In 1996, the third version of the Beck Depression Inventory was published. This version is called BDI-II, and it was created in response to the publication of the Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The American Psychiatric Association published it, which modified numerous diagnostic criteria for MDD or Major Depressive Disorder.

Several items were replaced in this version of BDI, including body image, problems in working, and hypochondriasis. Besides, criteria like the loss of sleep and the loss of appetite were modified. Instead, items like an increase and decrease in sleep and appetite were used. However, questions related to interest in sex, suicidal tendencies, and the thought of getting punished remained intact in this BDI version.

Another significant change noted in this version is that patients were asked about their feeling in the previous two weeks. The original BDI version dealt with a patient’s feelings in the past week. However, this version deals with the past two weeks, helping evaluators get a profound idea about the person’s state of mind.

Different Versions of the Beck Depression

What are the Key Depressive Symptoms that BDI can assess?

You have already read before that BDI can assess the most crucial symptoms of depression. The following few points will highlight those symptoms evaluated by the Beck Depression Inventory:

  1. Current mood
  2. Feeling of failure
  3. Pessimism
  4. Self-dissatisfaction
  5. Crying
  6. Detachment from the social world
  7. Self-hatred
  8. Suicidal tendency
  9. Guilty
  10. Punishment
  11. Alteration in body image
  12. Loss of interest in having sex
  13. Self-blaming
  14. Loss of weight
  15. Unable to make a decision
  16. Loss of sleep
  17. Weight loss
  18. Irritation
  19. Work difficulty
  20. Getting tired very fast

These are some of the crucial depressive symptoms that patients face very often. The Beck Depression Inventory helps assess these symptoms accurately to evaluate the degree of depression a person is having.

Impact of BDI

The fields of psychiatry and psychology received a huge boost, thanks to the introduction of BDI. Initially, mental health experts viewed depression as a psychodynamic factor. However, the Beck Depression Inventory helped them think differently and reflect on the thoughts of a person. Thus, treating a patient suffering from this mental disorder became easier and is yielding successful results.

BDI also highlighted the importance of a self-answering inventory, which was more effective than a psychometric tool working on baseless theories. A person can take this test and answer all the questions without anyone’s help. The assessor can evaluate the questionnaire according to the marks assigned to each answer. Then he can calculate the total score, which will help him determine the exact intensity of depression. The entire assessment process is faster eliminates all possible hassles.

This inventory helps in quantitatively assessing the severity of depression in a patient. It can determine the depth of this mental illness, and thus, can monitor the changes in a time span. Mental health experts can study the improvement of a patient and the effectiveness of a treatment procedure through BDI. Thus, this will help them eventually in carrying on with the same treatment method or switching to another one.

Final Thoughts

The Beck Depression Inventory finds a prominent place in the research world since its inception. In 1998, more than 2000 empirical studies used this instrument for studying mental health. It is available in various languages such as Arabic, Persian, Japanese, Chinese, Xhosa, and several European languages.

This article highlights all the significant points of the Beck Depression Inventory. Moreover, it discusses the types of BDI available, its impact on psychology and psychiatry, etc. Hope you find the given facts useful to understand this instrument used for measuring the severity of depression.

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