Debates about EBs (gambling, Internet use, shopping, working, exercising, eating, video game playing and sex) have gained momentum among researchers, clinicians, and the media. Controversy exists in the scientific literature about whether EBs are primary psychiatric disorders and, if so, where they fit into current and emerging diagnostic classification systems. The lack of consensus and associated confusion was the impetus for this systematic review.
The key search terms were: abuse/misuse, dependence, addiction, impulse control, compulsivity, pathological, and excessive, in combination with: buying/shopping, work, gaming/video games, exercise, Internet, sex, eating, and gambling.
361 articles were analyzed according to their conceptualization. In total, 47% adopted an addiction conceptualization, 9% adopted an impulse control conceptualization, and 2% an obsessive compulsive spectrum conceptualization. Alternative or blended conceptualizations were utilized by 27% and 16% did not specify a particular conceptualization. The findings were also broken down by excessive behaviour. Almost half of the articles were review articles (49%), 34% were empirical articles, and the remaining 17% were commentaries.
There was a general lack of agreement regarding conceptualization and a lack of consistency in nomenclature, definitions, and use of language. The addiction conceptualization was most prevalent consistent with the common use of the term behavioural addiction, and in line with proposed changes to the DSM-5.