Beck Depression Inventory (A guide)

In this article, we will discuss the characteristics and specifications of the Beck depression Inventory. 

Beck Depression Inventory: an overview

The Beck Depression Inventory or (BDI), is a self-report questionnaire that contains 21 multiple-choice questions for the evaluation of the severity (0 to 3 possible score per item) of depression in both normal and psychiatric populations. 

The BDI was developed by Aaron T. Beck and Colleagues in 1961 and he believed that negative cognitive distortions were to blame for depression.

This inventory underwent revisions in 1978, resulting in the BDA-IA and BDI-II in 1996.

In comparison to the first form of the BDI, the BDI-II does not have a particular theoretical basis.

This inventory was a result of clinical observations of symptoms and behaviors that were present more frequently in depressed psychiatric patients and were not as common in non-depressed psychiatric patients.

In the most updated version (BDI-II), items are scored in a 4 point rating scale where 0 means that the symptom is absent and  3 means severe symptomatology.

The overall score from the 21 items can be categorized in minimal depression (0-13), mild depression (14-19), Moderate depression (20-28) and severe depression (29-63).

Key symptoms evaluated can be listed in groups as follows:

  • Mood
  • Pessimism
  • Sense of failure
  • Self-dissatisfaction
  • Guilt
  • Punishment
  • Self-dislike
  • Self-accusation
  • Suicidal ideas
  • Crying
  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal
  • Indecisiveness
  • Body image change
  • Work difficulty
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Somatic preoccupation
  • Loss of libido

In addition, you can actually find the Beck Depression Inventory has been validated in a number of languages.

Who can answer this test?

It is intended for individuals who are 13 years or older, but even if this is not intended for kids, there is a children’s version developed by psychologist Maria Kovacs who took the BDI as a model to establish the  Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI).  

A theoretical approach to the Beck Depression Inventory

Initially, depression was conceived and explained by Beck in psychodynamic terms as “inverted hostility against the self”. 

By contrast, Beck realized the verbatim description of patient’s thoughts (negative cognitions) was extremely important to determine that cognitions were responsible for causing depression.

Here is when Beck develops his famous “Triad” of negative thoughts about the world, the future and oneself.

This theory has a particular application into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy using techniques such as cognitive restructuring to modify or restructure negative cognitions.

Limitations of the Beck Depression Inventory

Some of the limitations are listed as follows:

  • Since it is a self-report inventory, scores can be exaggerated or manipulated.
  • Final scores can be affected due to the way they were administered, especially in the clinical environment where the person taking the test can feel they are being observed or evaluated and their behavior will be adapted to the situation.
  • Symptoms used to describe and diagnose depression could be part of another psychiatric illness, so this could provide an incorrect diagnosis. 
  • The Beck Depression Inventory is copyrighted so a fee needs to be paid for each copy that is used. This prevents the general public from having free access to this tool. 

Where can I find it?

How to get it, manual, costs and more, click here!:

Pearson: Beck Depression Inventory

Here, you can also find a PDF printable sample version courtesy of the Indiana State Medical Association ( ISMA):

Beck Depression Inventory Questionnaire

Why is this blog about the Beck Depression Inventory useful?

This blog post is important because it provides necessary and useful information about the Beck Depression Inventory how to administer, who can take it, what it is intended to measure and even a sample so you can actually get to know the questionnaire!

Please feel free to comment on the content or ask any questions in the comments section below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about the Beck Depression Inventory

What is the purpose of the Beck Depression Inventory?

The main purpose of the Beck Depression Inventory is to measure the depressive symptoms, severity, and intensity in individuals with a psychiatric diagnosis.

The long-form (21 questions) helps to assess symptoms that are common within depressed individuals. 

Is the Beck Depression Inventory valid and reliable?

The Beck Depression Inventory is considered valid and reliable.

According to the psychometric properties: “The BDI-II positively correlated with the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, r = 0.71, had a one-week test-retest reliability of r = 0.93 and an internal consistency α=.91. Beck, A. T., & Steer, R. A. (1984). … Psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory: Twenty-five years of evaluation”

What is the Beck Depression Inventory test?

How much does the BDI II cost?

The BDI-II costs will depend on the provider.

If you buy it through Pearson, the starter kit which includes the print manual, digital manual, and 5 Q-global interpretive reports will cost $96.00. 

How is BDI 2 scored?

The BDI-2 is scored following suggested guidelines grouped in four main categories: minimal range would go from 0 to 13, mild depression would range between 14 to19, moderate depression would range between 20 to 28, and severe depression will range between 29 to 68.

  1. Beck Depression Inventory
  2. Psychometric Evaluation of the Beck Depression Inventory II With Adolescents in Hong Kong
  3. BDI, Beck depression inventory: Manual
  4. The Psychological Treatment of Depression: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  5. Measures of depression and depressive symptoms: Beck Depression Inventory‐II (BDI‐II), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES‐D), Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and Patient Health Questionnaire‐9 (PHQ‐9)


Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Learning Network

American Psychological Association

Questionnaire Review: Beck Depression Inventory

ScienceDirect: Beck Depression Inventory