Depression screening tools can objectively detect depression and track symptoms over time.

The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, so in some cases, the disorder can be difficult to detect.

Taking an evidence-based assessment for depression can help confirm your diagnosis and allow a doctor to better understand your symptoms and your condition’s severity.

Depression assessments play a vital role in the treatment of depression by providing a consistent and objective measure of symptoms.

These assessments use a combination of self-reported symptoms, clinical interviews, and standardized questionnaires or rating scales. They can also determine the severity of depression and track symptoms over time.

Here are some of the most commonly used depression scales.

The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)

The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) is a widely used self-reported questionnaire designed to assess the symptoms and severity of depression, as well as its behavioral manifestations.

The BDI consists of 21 questions via a multiple-choice format and takes about 10 minutes to complete. It evaluates depressive symptoms such as hopelessness and changes in sleep and appetite. Each question is scored on a 4-point scale (0 to 3), with higher scores suggesting more severe symptoms of depression.

This assessment is used in both clinical and research settings and is known to have high reliability and validity. Adults and children ages 13 and older are eligible to take the questionnaire.

Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)

The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) is a 20-item self-reported questionnaire that rates depressive symptoms experienced within the past week. Each item is rated on a 4-point scale (1 to 4), with higher scores indicating greater severity.

The CES-D is commonly used in both clinical practice and in research, including population-based and international studies, and has demonstrated strong reliability and validity.

A 2020 study of 663 participants found that the CES-D is a viable depression screening option for younger and older adults with cancer.

Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9)

The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) is a widely used self-reported assessment designed to detect the presence and severity of depression. It’s used in a variety of clinical settings, such as primary care, mental health clinics, and research.

The 9-item PHQ-9 asks questions based on the diagnostic criteria for depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR). Each item is rated on a 4-point scale (0 to 3), with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms of depression.

A study published in 2020 demonstrated that the PHQ-9 is a reliable and valid measure of depression severity. In addition to its reliability, researchers sometimes prefer this assessment because it’s a shorter questionnaire than many of the other depression assessments.


The EQ-5D is a widely used quality-of-life assessment developed by the EuroQol Group, a network of international multidisciplinary researchers. It was designed to be an easy-to-use international assessment to measure one’s quality of life.

The EQ-5D consists of five dimensions:

  • mobility
  • self-care
  • usual activities
  • pain/discomfort
  • anxiety/depression

These dimensions are rated on a 3-point scale (with higher scores indicating better health) that can be used to generate a single summary score. The assessments are used in health economics and outcomes research.

Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD)

The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD), also known as the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), is a widely used clinician-administered assessment for depression. The HRSD is considered a “gold standard” for depression assessment in clinical trials and research.

The HRSD scores 17 items on a 5- or 7-point scale, with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms. It’s commonly used in clinical settings to diagnose depression and to keep track of symptom changes over time.

Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS)

The Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) is a clinician-administered assessment designed to determine depression severity. The 10-item test is rated on a 7-point (0 to 6) scale, with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms.

The MADRS, an assessment widely used in clinical settings and trials, is an adaptation of the HDRS but has greater sensitivity to symptom changes over time.

There are a few ways you can take a depression assessment.

  • Online assessments: If you want to take a depression test right away, you can complete an online assessment, such as the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) or the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). It’s important to remember, however, that an online assessment can’t take the place of seeing a healthcare professional.
  • Primary care: A primary care doctor can give you a depression assessment and prescribe medication or refer you to a psychologist.
  • Mental health professional: Another good option is to go straight to a mental health professional who can administer the test. If you see a psychiatrist, you can be prescribed medication.

The final diagnosis of depression is made by a mental health professional based on criteria in the DSM-5-TR.

Some common symptoms of depression include:

  • persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable
  • changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • restlessness or irritability
  • avoidance of social situations and isolation
  • physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches that don’t respond to treatment
  • suicidal thoughts

Suicide prevention

If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person, call 911 or your local emergency number.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Was this helpful?

If you’ve received a depression diagnosis, here are a few steps you can take to help manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life:

  • Stick with treatment: A mental health professional can help you find the right treatment plan for your specific needs, which may include medication, therapy, or both.
  • Take care of yourself: Try to get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly.
  • Connect with others: Talking with a trusted friend or family member, or connecting with a depression support group can help you feel less isolated and improve your mood.
  • Challenge negative thoughts: Depression often leads to negative thinking patterns. Practice challenging these thoughts and replacing them with more positive and realistic ones.
  • Set achievable goals: Setting small, achievable goals can help you feel more in control and give you a sense of accomplishment.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, consider taking an online depression test. This will give you more insight into your condition and help you identify specific symptoms.

Next, make an appointment with a mental health professional who can give you a clinical diagnosis and help you get started on the proper treatment. It’s important to remember that an online depression assessment can’t replace the help of a mental health professional.