Tests to Assess Depression

There are several paper-and-pencil or computer assessments used often for depression and many less well-known or particularized assessments. These assessment instruments must be interpreted by mental health professionals familiar with the scoring, norms and meanings assigned to the results. Assessments should be distinguished from screens, which show only whether further assessment for depression may be appropriate. All of the assessments listed here also contain items helpful in assessing suicidality.

Clinical Interviewing

Clinicians assessing a patient for depression may do so on the basis of an clinical intake interview alone. There is no requirement that any other assessment be used. To diagnose depression, the criteria contained in the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition,Text Revision” (DSM-IV-TR) must be met. Clinicians vary in exactly how they perform a clinical intake interview, but interviews include questions that will draw out from the patient whether he meets criteria for depression.

The Big Assessments

Both the “Minnesota Mutiphasic Personality Inventory, 2nd Edition” (MMPI-II) and the “Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory, 3rd Edition” (MCMI-III) include scales assessing levels of depression and other disorders. Both may be administered only by, or under the supervision of, a licensed psychologist. The MMPI-II and the MCMI-III are intended for use with clinical psychiatric patients.

Smaller Depression Assessments

Among the many depression-specific assessments is the “Beck Depression Inventory, 2nd Edition, (BDI-II). It is the most researched self-report depression assessment. It may be used on both psychiatric patients and those who do not have a depression diagnosis. The “Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression” requires the clinician to rate the patient on various cues indicative of depression signs and symptoms.

Assessments for Children and Adolescents

Both the MMPI and the MMCI come in versions for use with adolescents. Additionally, the “Beck Youth Inventories” contains a depression rating scale that may be appropriate for some children and adolescents. The “Child Behavior Checklist” and associated “Youth Self Report” are self-report questionnaires for children of various ages. Similarly, the “Behavior Assessment for Children, 2nd Edition” (BASC-2) may be used with children of various ages. Both contain scales assessing depression.

Assessments for special populations

As the field of geriatric psychology continues to grow, efforts are continuing to develop depression assessments representative of older people. Similarly, assessments exist for special populations such as non-verbal children and infants.

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