How to Tell If You Have Depression: A Clinical Assessment Tool

Mental health professionals use a questionnaire tool to assess levels of depression in patients. The questionnaire, called Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, has been the gold standard for the assessment of depression for several decades.

Abbreviated as HAM-D, the questionnaire was developed by Max Hamilton in the late 1950s to assess the effectiveness of the first generation of antidepressants and was originally published in 1960.

HAM-D is designed for adults and is used to rate the severity of depression by assessing patient’s mood, feelings of guilt, suicide ideation, insomnia, agitation or retardation, anxiety, weight loss, and somatic symptoms.

It generally takes 15-20 minutes to for a trained clinician to complete the questionnaire interview and score the results. The patient is scored either on a 3-point or 5-point Likert-type scale; a score of 0–7 is considered to be normal while a score of 20 or higher (indicating at least moderate severity) is usually required for entry into a clinical trial:

  • Not depressed: 0–7

  • Mild: 8–13

  • Moderate: 14–18

  • Severe: 19–22

  • Very severe: >23

A downloadable copy of HAM-D questionnaire can be found at


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