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Confused by Internet gaming disorder terms? You're not alone

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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Emerging themes in the race to understand problematic use

reSTART Life works with emerging adults whose problematic Internet use (PIU) is impairing their ability to lead healthy, productive lives.

As the first program of its kind to treat individuals with PIU, we’ve learned a great deal about digital media use since opening our doors in 2009.

One theme playing out in the lives of our clients is the familiar story of childhood bullying of those who are “different, unusual, or unacceptable” in America. Ill equipped with emotional strategies to cope with the pain of being bullied, young people report immersing themselves in video gaming, as a means of escaping the negative emotions inherent in the bullying experience.

A second and compelling theme being reported in those with PIU is the problematic use of pornography, which is readily accessible and difficult to avoid when spending copious amounts of time online. David Greenfield reports that 62% of Internet users log on to porn sites, and in our experience, problematic Internet use is significantly correlated with greater engagement with pornography.

What long term effects heavy digital media consumption will have on our children in the future is difficult to predict. Thankfully, research into digital media and Internet gaming use is on the rise worldwide and may shed light on these and other patterns of concern. 


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Signs & Symptoms of Internet Gaming Addiction

Signs & Symptoms of Computer & Internet/Gaming Addiction 


The Brief Internet and Gaming Screen (#reSTART-BIGS) 

The Brief Internet and Gaming Screen (BIGS) has been developed by the reSTART professional group to help people better understand their Internet Gaming use  and assists people in making decisions about the way they engage in gaming activities. This tool is designed to examine areas of use which may become problematic over the last 12 months. This screen assists people in making decisions about the way they engage in gaming activities. Please answer these questions based on your engagement with gaming over the past year (i.e., 12 months).  For clarification, "games or gaming" are catchall terms which include online (i.e., the Internet) and offline engagement with games (e.g., video games, console games, handheld games, cellular phone or tablet games, computer games) or use of any other device capable of playing games, and includes the viewing of current or past games being played or broadcast (e.g., eSports).

1. How often do you think about your current, previous or next gaming activity?
  • Never
  • Occasionally
  • Weekly
  • Daily
  • Hourly
  • Always
2. Have you become restless, irritable, angry, or anxious when you are unable to engage in gaming activities? 

Yes No

3. Has your engagement with gaming activities increased in the past year? 

Yes No

4. What is the average number of hours spent engaging in gaming activities each week? 
  • Less than 7 hours
  • Between 8-14 hours
  • Between 15 and 20 hours
  • Between 21 and 30 hours
  • Between 31 and 40 hours
  • More than 40 hours
5. Have you tried to reduce participation in game activities but found it too difficult, so you've continued engaging in gaming activities? 

Yes No Occasionally

6. Have you lost interest in non-game related activities (e.g., sports, hobbies, family activities, etc.)? 

Yes No

7. Have you continued to engage in game activities despite knowing the problems you experience as a result of your use? 

Yes No

8. Have you deceived a family member, significant other, employer or therapist regarding the amount of time spent engaging in gaming activities? 

Yes No

9. Do you find yourself participating in gaming activities to feel better (e.g., reduce anxiety, loneliness, sadness, guilt, worry, etc.)?

 Yes No

10. Have you lost a significant relationship, academic or employment opportunity because of your engagement with gaming activities? 

Yes No

11. On the line below, please select the option that best describes how you feel right now:
  • I never think about gaming activities 
  • Sometimes I think about gaming activities less
  • I have decided to engage in gaming activities less
  • I am already trying to engage in gaming activities less
  • I changed my engagement with gaming activities-I do not engage in gaming activities now, or I engage less than before

Computer/Addiction Screen (CASH)

by Dr. Hilarie Cash, Ph.D., founding member of the reSTART program
Here is what to look for (3-4 yes responses suggest abuse; 5 or more suggest addiction)
  • Increasing amounts of time spent on computer and internet activities
  • Failed attempts to control behavior
  • Heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and internet activities
  • Craving more time on the computer and internet
  • Neglecting friends and family
  • Feeling restless when not engaged in the activity
  • Being dishonest with others
  • Computer use interfering with job/school performance
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of behavior
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

In addition to these tools, there are currently 30 different instruments seeking to measure the following:

  • Problematic Internet Use (PIU)
  • Internet Addiction
  • Excessive Internet Use
  • Compulsive Internet Use
  • Generalized Problematic Use
  • Internet Gaming Disorder
  • Internet and Computer Game Addiction
  • Problems because of Internet Use
  • Problematic Internet Entertainment Use
  • Internet-related Experiences
  • Internet Inventory
  • Problematic Video Game Use

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