Beck Depression Inventory – Measuring Depression

The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was created by Dr. Aaron T. Beck in 1961 as a method of measuring a patient’s level of depression. Consisting of 21 multiple-choice questions, it is a very popular psychological tool and is currently used in numerous clinical settings, including drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers.

The test itself has undergone two revisions, first in 1978 and again in 1996. The first version, known as the BDI-IA, was altered so that it was easier to conduct. The latest version, known as the BDI-II, accurately measures the severity of a subject’s depression following standards set by the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

Since 1985, when today’s standards for psychological tests were first set, the Beck Depression Inventory has been extensively studied. Results have been consistently positive and the BDI is now known to correspond with over 90% of clinical diagnoses for patients suffering from depression. It is also widely agreed that the test adequately covers the range of conditions commonly exhibited by those with depression, measuring the severity of the ailment in an accurate manner, while meeting with today’s medical and psychological standards.

How The Beck Depression Inventory Works

Each question in the BDI-II focuses on different criteria, set by the American Psychiatric Association, that look at various symptoms commonly linked with depression. Whether a patient is an alcoholic or not, if they suffer from depression, their condition will commonly exhibit itself in a number of known ways. These symptoms can range from simple feelings of hopelessness or guilt to a lack of interest in sex or excessive weight loss or gain. The BDI-II focuses on all of these known symptoms in an effort to measure how extensive the patient’s level of depression actually is.

In each question in the test, the patient will answer based on a score valued from 0 to 3, where a 0 indicates the subject feels fine and a 3 indicates that they feel unbearably sad. These questions cover a variety of situations that the participant is likely to have experienced in their everyday life. Once the test is completed, the values are then tallied up and measured against the following scale which is used in the patient’s final diagnosis:

# 0 – 13: Minimal depression
# 14 – 19: Mild depression
# 20 – 28: Moderate depression
# 29 – 63: Severe depression

Limitations of the Beck Depression Inventory

Because the Beck Depression Inventory is self-reported, there is a possibility that the participant may exaggerate their answers. This is especially true in cases such as alcohol-induced depression where the patient may feel more despondent at the time of the test than they would regularly feel. This will have a direct effect on the answers that they provide and how well they score on the test.

In addition to this, the BDI-II can only be used to measure the severity of depression felt by a patient. It is not a diagnostic tool in itself and has to be used in conjunction with other tests in order to provide a proper analysis of the subject’s current mental state.

The Beck Depression Inventory and Addiction

In general, it has been found that alcohol consumption and drug abuse have strong connections with depression. As this ailment is the focus of the BDI-II, studies have been done which show that it is in fact a reliable and valid screening tool in clinical settings, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. The test is also a reliable method of detecting changes in symptoms within those suffering from alcohol-related depression, allowing therapists and psychiatrists to keep track of their patients’ progress in a simple, yet effective manner. This makes the test particularly useful in rehabilitation centers that are short-staffed, as the questions can be completed and the scores tallied up in a relatively short period of time.

Whether in a group or an individual setting, the BDI-II can be quickly and effortlessly administered, providing valuable insight into the participants’ minds, and helping therapists and psychiatrists accurately measure the level of depression found within their patients. It is particularly effective when used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools, allowing a medical professional to measure, diagnose and then continually observe any patients they may have who suffer from alcohol-related depression.