Terms used to describe Internet and video game addiction continue to grow

What should we call it, and why can’t we all agree?

Recognizing a problem with the way your son, daughter, spouse or co-worker interfaces with digital media, you turn to the Internet for information. But what do you search for? In the past several decades, the terms used to describe the behaviors associated with problematic digital media use has grown depending on whose examining, researching, describing and writing about the issue. Today, the number of terms used to describe this cultural phenomenon are growing exponentially. 

At present, the following identifiers are being used to describe this ever evolving behavioral concern: 

  • Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)
  • Internet Addiction (IA)
  • Internet dependence
  • Internet abuse
  • Internet Use and Gaming Disorder (IGD)
  • Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD)
  • Gaming addiction
  • Problematic digital media use
  • Problematic Internet use (PIU)
  • Problematic computer use
  • Problematic video game addiction
  • Compulsive Internet use (CIU)
  • Technology addiction
  • Video game addiction
  • Facebook addiction
  • Cell phone addiction
  • Smart phone addiction
  • Cyber addiction
  • Virtual addiction
  • Virtual reality addiction

To further muddy the water, people are using specifiers as a way to drill down to the exact addictive behavior with terms such as:

  • World of Warcraft addiction
  • Minecraft addiction
  • League of Legends addiction
  • iPhone addiction

The multitude of ways, terms and labels people are using to describe these behaviors makes it difficult to share research, and find answers. One generally accepted idea is that all of these terms falls into the category of behaviorally based “process addictions.” But what if the use doesn’t rise to a level of addiction, and it’s simply problematic? Clinicians, researchers, and other professionals also disagree on whether the behavior is actually an addiction, rather, they argue it may actually be an anxiety disorder. 

Although we’d like to see the number of terms simplified for discussion, research, information sharing, and so forth, we are not concerned about labeling our clients. No matter what you call it, at reSTART, we believe any use which negatively impacts your life is unsustainable over time. That is something we can all agree on. For example, if your personal life goal is to go to college, get a degree in engineering, and you spend too much time engaging with digital media and it rises to the level of [insert desired term here], this level and type of engagement becomes unsustainable as it interferes with your own life goals and personal vision. Therefore, what matters most is not what we call it, but how we work together to connect you with what matters most to you–living the life you’ve designed for yourself.


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