Beck Depression Scale or Inventory

Beck Depression Scale is named after Aaron Beck, an expert and initiator of cognitive therapy who had designed the scale. This scale also goes by the names Beck Scale of Depression or Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)

The Becks Depression Inventory is a questionnaire created to gauge the extent, gravity, and degree of depression in people experiencing the condition. It can be administered to people above the age of 13 years.

BDI is a questionnaire / test / quiz comprising 21 questions that have been developed to detect the exact and precise signs and symptoms which are widespread amid various people suffering from depression. This questionnaire or inventory of 21 questions is accompanied by another set of seven questions developed specifically for healthcare providers in administering and processing BDI.

About the Scale

The first set of Beck Depression Scale comprising of 21 questions is designed in the form of a multiple-choice questionnaire where each question is accompanied by four answers to choose from. All answers are given a rating starting from zero progressing to three depending upon the nature and intensity of the depressive symptoms.

The BDI helps evaluate levels of various emotional symptoms, such as feelings of dejection, failure, self-blaming, self-loathing, pessimistic attitude, harboring guilt complex and suicidal tendencies. The Beck Depression Scale also helps evaluate levels of physiological problems such as lack of hunger and appetite, constant spells of sobbing and crying, unexplained fatigue and tiredness, lack of interest in working and socializing with friends and family, loss of weight, lack of interest in sex, as well as feelings of one’s mind being preoccupied.

Thus, BDI is divided into two main sections, one comprising of questions pertinent to emotional symptoms and the other containing questions pertinent to physical or physiological symptoms.

Beck Depression Scale or BDI has been found to be extremely efficient in assessing and evaluating the severity of depression in people since it covers both the emotional and physiological aspects of depression. Therefore, the subject matter contained in BDI is representative of clinical depression in its entirety and is in concurrence with other scales like the Hamilton Depression Scale (HDS).

The Beck Depression Scale or BDI addresses three significant characteristic features affecting depression, which are depressive symptoms based on:

  • Negative feelings towards one self.
  • Negative feelings arising from repeated failure or inability to do well in various aspects of life - personal, professional, or both.
  • Negative feelings arising or stemming from physical imbalance or somatic causes.

Thus, BDI is a well-designed questionnaire that takes into account all possible reasons and factors contributing to depression and examines the severity and intensity of depression in people diagnosed with the condition.

Understanding the Scores

People taking BDI have to select only one answer from four possible options given and, based on the option selected, scores will assigned. “Zero” scores will be awarded to the option that describes least severity of symptom and “three” scores will be awarded to options that describe maximum severity. Therefore, the total scores are directly proportional to the intensity and degree of depression experienced by the person taking the test.

Having said the above, one must note that Beck Depression Scale or Inventory scores are interpreted differently for regular people when compared to people who have been diagnosed with depression.

Regular people who take the test and get a total score of 21 or higher are indicative of depression, whereas scores for people who have been diagnosed with depression are interpreted as follows:

  • Scores between 0 and 9 are indicative of people experiencing minimum symptoms of depression.
  • Scores between 10 and 16 are indicative of people experiencing minor symptoms of depression.
  • Scores between 17 and 29 are indicative of people experiencing average levels of symptoms of depression.
  • Scores between 30 and 63 are indicative of people experiencing major or severe form of depression

Although the Beck Depression Scale might appear simple to understand and interpret, it has been developed specifically for healthcare professionals who have undergone training in administering, analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting the results.

Hence, while one can administer the Beck Depression Inventory or Beck Depression Test oneself, based on the findings one must always seek the council and guidance of a professional to confirm one’s results. This is because BDI has the ability to differentiate between various categories of depression, ranging from severe depression to less severe depression, referred to as dysthymia.

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