How To Tell The Difference Between Sexual Tension And A Crush

When it comes to love and sex, it's sometimes difficult to know what's what. One moment you're annoyed by someone, then the next, all you want to do is jump their bones and never leave bed again. The next day, you could be smitten with someone else, and two months later, you find yourself married to someone you met on the train just three days before. It's a pretty wondrous thing, chaotic but wondrous.


Because these things can, without a doubt, be confusing, sometimes you find yourself wondering if you're crushing on someone or if you're just feeling sexual tension. Is the sexual tension mutual? Is it all your head? Do you want to move to Bali together and raise a family of former street dogs? What am I feeling?

"In matters of sex, lust, and anxiety, there's some overlap," marriage and family therapist Katie Miles, LMFT, tells Cosmopolitan. "Anxiety and sexual responses both can make your heart race, increase your blood pressure, and give you that feeling of adrenaline."

If your body is, for the most part, responding similarly to these things, it's no wonder things can be so confusing. Whether it's love or sex, the brain goes nuts thanks to all the hormones being released and begging the reward system to go into overdrive (via Harvard Medical School).


What's sexual tension?

If you've ever experienced sexual tension, you've most likely known it. There's no doubt when a certain someone rolls into your view and starts walking toward you that something in you becomes highly charged. It's like you're suddenly on sexual fire, and you feel like you're walking on a tightrope in trying to stay cool as your heart races, thanks to the oxytocin being streamed through your blood.


"Sexual tension usually feels like a sold intense and mutual attraction, almost as powerful as a thunderbolt," clinical psychologist Devaleena Ghosh tells Bonobology. "Even the slightest touch, which may just be very casual, will feel like a huge deal. Both individuals involved will react to that touch. There's also a lot of fidgeting and urgency in bodily sensations, along with a great sense of connection."

With sexual tension, not only do you and the object of your desire feel it, but sometimes it can be so intense that others in the room feel it too. So much so that they might even suggest you two "get a room already." Crushes are far more subtle in that way.

What's a crush?

A crush, on the other hand, doesn't necessarily involve sexual feelings, nor do they have to be even romantic feelings. And, in many cases, a crush is one-sided. Sexual tension can't really exist if there aren't two people creating that tension.


"A crush is a really intense infatuation with somebody," clinical psychologist Crysta Derham tells ABC. "It's a very sudden onset of feelings about someone and it's normally almost 'loving' someone from afar."

People tend to get a crush on those they don't know well, so they can create their own version of what they think that person is with "little bits of information" that comes their way (via Insider). Because of this, research has found that those in relationships are far more likely than single people to have crushes, with some of these people in committed relationships saying that their innocent crush on someone was good for their relationship.

Takeaway? Whether it's sexual tension or a crush, why we find ourselves attracted to certain people and not to others remains a mystery of the brain and hormones. While the two feelings are vastly different, they do have one thing in common: they provide a rush of the highly addictive oxytocin, making it feel so darn good. So instead of wondering about the how and why of it, enjoy it. Neither sexual tension nor crushes last forever.