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What is the BDI-II and how to use it?

The BDI-II (Beck Depression Inventory-II) is a widely used self-report instrument for measuring the severity of depression in adults and adolescents. It was developed by Aaron T. Beck and his colleagues in 1996 as a revision of the original BDI from 1961. The BDI-II consists of 21 items, each with four statements that describe different levels of depressive symptoms (0-3). The total score ranges from 0 to 63, with higher scores indicating more severe depression.

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The BDI-II is designed to assess the presence and intensity of depressive symptoms that have occurred in the past two weeks, including today. It covers nine criteria for major depressive disorder according to the DSM-IV, such as sadness, pessimism, guilt, loss of interest, suicidal thoughts, sleep problems, appetite changes, concentration difficulties, and loss of energy. The BDI-II also includes items that reflect cognitive, affective, somatic, and behavioral aspects of depression.

The BDI-II can be used for various purposes, such as screening for depression, monitoring treatment progress, evaluating treatment outcomes, and conducting research. The BDI-II has been validated in different populations and settings, and has shown good reliability and validity. The BDI-II can be administered by a trained professional or self-administered by the patient. The administration time is about 5 to 10 minutes. The scoring can be done manually or by using a computer program.

How to interpret the BDI-II scores?

The BDI-II scores can be interpreted according to the following cut-off points:


0-13Minimal depression

14-19Mild depression

20-28Moderate depression

29-63Severe depression

The BDI-II scores can provide an indication of the severity of depression, but they are not sufficient to make a diagnosis. The diagnosis of depression should be based on a comprehensive clinical evaluation that considers the patient's history, symptoms, functioning, and other relevant factors. The BDI-II scores can also be affected by various factors, such as the patient's mood at the time of administration, the patient's response style, the patient's cultural background, and the patient's comorbid conditions. Therefore, the BDI-II scores should be interpreted with caution and in conjunction with other sources of information.

Where to find the BDI-II questionnaire and manual?

The BDI-II questionnaire and manual can be purchased from the official publisher, Pearson Assessments. The questionnaire is available in paper-and-pencil format or online format. The manual provides detailed information on the development, administration, scoring, interpretation, and psychometric properties of the BDI-II. The manual also includes normative data for different groups and samples.

The BDI-II questionnaire and manual are also available in different languages, such as German, French, Spanish, and Chinese. However, these versions may have different psychometric characteristics and cut-off points than the original English version. Therefore, it is recommended to use the appropriate version for the target population and to consult the corresponding manual for guidance.


  • Aaron T. Beck et al., BDI-II Beck Depression Inventory-II Interpretive Report, Pearson Assessments (2009).

  • Martin Hautzinger et al., Beck Depressions-Inventar (BDI-II), Pearson Assessment & Information GmbH (2006).

  • Aaron T. Beck et al., "The Beck Depression InventoryII," Psychological Assessment, vol. 10 (1996), pp. 77-81.

  • Aaron T. Beck et al., Cognitive Therapy of Depression, Guilford Press (1979).

Pearson Assessments website: [

Schmerztherapiezentrum Hagen website: [

L'Association Canadienne pour la Santé Mentale website: [

Universidad de Granada website: [

Beijing Normal University website: [

How to use the BDI-II questionnaire?

The BDI-II questionnaire is easy to use and can be completed in a few minutes. Here are some steps to follow when using the BDI-II questionnaire:

  • Read the instructions carefully before answering the questions. The instructions are as follows: This questionnaire consists of 21 groups of statements. Please read each group of statements carefully, and then pick out the one statement in each group that best describes the way you have been feeling during the past two weeks, including today. Circle the number beside the statement you have picked. If several statements in the group seem to apply equally well, circle the highest number for that group. Be sure that you do not choose more than one statement for any group, including Item 16 (Changes in Sleeping Pattern) or Item 18 (Changes in Appetite).

  • Answer each question honestly and based on your own experience. Do not try to guess what the questionnaire is measuring or what the right answer is. Do not let other people influence your answers.

  • Choose only one statement for each question. If you are unsure about which statement to choose, pick the one that seems closest to how you have been feeling.

  • Do not skip any question. If you find any question difficult or irrelevant, choose the statement that is least wrong.

  • Add up the numbers that you have circled for each question. This is your total score.

  • Compare your total score with the cut-off points provided in the previous section to get an idea of your level of depression.

  • Remember that the BDI-II is not a diagnostic tool and does not replace a professional evaluation. If you are concerned about your score or your mental health, seek help from a qualified mental health professional.

You can find some examples of the BDI-II questionnaire in different languages at the following links:

  • German: [Schmerztherapiezentrum Hagen]

  • French: [L'Association Canadienne pour la Santé Mentale]

  • Spanish: [Universidad de Granada]

  • Chinese: [Beijing Normal University]

What are the benefits and limitations of the BDI-II?

The BDI-II is a widely used and well-established instrument for measuring depression. It has several benefits, such as:

  • It is easy to administer and score, and can be completed in a short time.

  • It has good psychometric properties, such as reliability, validity, and sensitivity to change.

  • It covers a broad range of depressive symptoms, including cognitive, affective, somatic, and behavioral aspects.

  • It is based on the cognitive theory of depression, which emphasizes the role of negative thoughts and beliefs in causing and maintaining depression.

  • It is compatible with the DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder, and can help identify patients who may need further assessment or treatment.

  • It is available in different languages and formats, and can be used with diverse populations and settings.

However, the BDI-II also has some limitations, such as:

  • It is a self-report measure, which means that it relies on the patient's subjective perception and honesty. It may not capture the objective reality or the clinician's observation of the patient's condition.

  • It may be influenced by various factors that are not related to depression, such as mood fluctuations, response styles, cultural differences, and comorbid conditions.

  • It may not reflect the complexity and heterogeneity of depression, which can vary in terms of causes, types, subtypes, courses, and outcomes.

  • It may not capture some aspects of depression that are not included in the questionnaire, such as interpersonal problems, social functioning, quality of life, and suicidal behavior.

  • It may not be suitable for some populations or situations that require special adaptations or modifications, such as children, older adults, pregnant women, medically ill patients, or patients with psychotic features.

Therefore, the BDI-II should be used with caution and in conjunction with other sources of information when assessing depression. It should not be considered as a definitive diagnosis or a substitute for a professional evaluation. of the manual or report, you need to include that information in parentheses after the year of publication. For example:

The scoring procedure of the BDI-II is described in detail in the manual (Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996, pp. 4-5).

If you are citing the BDI-II in your reference list, you need to provide the following information: author(s), year of publication, title of the instrument, publisher, and location. For example:

Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Brown, G. K. (1996). BDI-II Beck Depression Inventory-II Interpretive Report. Pearson Assessments.

MLA style

The MLA style is another common citation style in humanities and literature. It follows the author-page system, which means that you need to include the author's surname and the page number in parentheses after the name of the instrument. For example:

The BDI-II is a 21-item self-report measure of depression (Beck et al. 4).

If you are citing the BDI-II for the first time in your paper, you need to provide the full name of the instrument and its abbreviation in parentheses. If you are citing it again later in your paper, you can just use the abbreviation. For example:

The Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) was used to assess the severity of depressive symptoms (Beck et al. 4). The BDI-II has good reliability and validity (Beck et al. 5).

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