What Are Different Types Of Attraction?

Updated October 7, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

You may be wondering, "What is asexual or bisexual orientation?" When we talk about attraction, many people immediately jump to the conclusion of sexual and romantic attraction. It's the one we hear the most about, after all, and so we assume that it's the only one that's out there, but that's not the case at all.

There are a number of different types of attraction. Attraction occurs in different ways and in different relationships for different social, psychological, and biological reasons and each one of them is important to who we each are as individuals. Each of these types of attraction leads us to different people and helps us to become the person we are.

Here, we’ll explore romantic attraction, aesthetic attraction, physical attraction, emotional attraction, intellectual attraction, and more. Sometimes, you may even think that you're not attracted to anyone, but not asexual either, which can be just as confusing. We’ll also address how you can find help sorting your feelings of attraction, and end the article by looking at some frequently asked questions.

You Can Learn More About Attraction From A Licensed Therapist

Different Types Of Attraction

Sexual attraction is only one of the many different types out there. When you’re attracted to someone sexually, you may or may not be attracted to them in other ways and you can be attracted to people when no sexual attraction is present.

Alongside sexual attraction is romantic attraction, physical attraction, emotional attraction and aesthetic attraction. Each is entirely different, and though you may feel each of them for one person, you may feel them each for someone different.

They're also not entirely up to you.

Something in your body or your mind (or both) tells you how you feel about someone and though that feeling or type of attraction may change as you get to know them better, there's always going to be some level of intrinsic feeling in your mind.

Sexual Attraction

This is the one that we hear about the most, and it's the one that most people think of as soon as they hear the word 'attraction.' It's about looking at someone and feeling something toward them in a sexual way.

We think this about our sexual partner and hopefully the one that we choose to spend our lives with as well. But you may also feel sexual attraction to other people around you. It is a desire toward sexual touching and activity with another person. The level of strength of those feelings and their occurrence, however, could vary from person to person. It can also grow or fade over time and change in different circumstances.

Asexuals are people who don’t experience sexual attraction, though many experience romantic attraction, which we’ll talk about next. If you don’t experience sexual attraction – or even romantic attraction – it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. However, it does mean that you may need to navigate relationships more carefully than others, as most people do experience attraction in these ways and they often expect it in return.

Romantic Attraction

Romantic Attraction is entirely separate from sexual attraction though you may feel them for the same person.

This type of attraction is where you want to be in a relationship with the person. You may want to be with them without necessarily wanting the sexual aspect of the relationship. This isn't the same as friendship, however, and the feelings will be stronger than the attraction you would feel toward a friend (we'll get to that later).

In this type of attraction, you want to be romantically involved with the individual, but sex is not required. Now that we’ve talked about sexual and romantic attraction, it may be easier to understand how they are different.

Think of celebrities that you may have a “crush” on. You may be sexually attracted to them – you may watch films or television appearances that they make, or purchase magazines with their images. But, you probably don’t think about dating them, getting married, having kids, etc., because you probably aren’t romantically attracted to them.

As was the case with sexual attraction, some people don’t experience romantic attraction. These people are called “aromantic.” While they will still have social needs that can be satisfied through platonic relationships, they may not feel the need to date, get married, etc.

Just like we said in the case of asexuals, people who don’t get romantically attracted to another person aren’t broken or deficient, but they may have trouble navigating relationships with people who do experience these feelings.

Physical Attraction

Also called sensual attraction, this is a desire to be around others, to be physically cared for and treated with love and affection. It can occur with romantic relationships, but it doesn't have to. Think about all of the people that you touch in non-sexual and non-romantic ways – friends, parents, children, siblings.

When we are children, we have a level of physical attraction to our parents who hug and cuddle us. As we grow older, we may develop these types of relationships with our friends. These are attractions and desires for physical contact but those types of contact that are non-sexual.

You may feel a desire for your friend to hug you when you've had a bad day, for example, this is an example of physical attraction.

Asexual and even aromantic people can experience this form of attraction. However, because they don’t experience it along with other attraction behaviors that we may expect of them – because we may experience these things ourselves – this can be confusing.

The important thing is to communicate with the other person – no matter who they are and what your relationship to them is to establish consent before touching them in ways that could be misconstrued, and to ask them about their feelings before jumping to conclusions.

Emotional Attraction

To feel an emotional attraction is to want to be emotionally present with another person. You may have this with friends, family or romantic partners - or you may have some level of it with all three.

Aesthetic Attraction

Finally, this type of attraction is what happens when you see someone walking down the street and think that they look good.

Many of us look at celebrities this way and think that they are cute, hot, gorgeous, etc. This type of attraction is not the same as physical attraction or sexual attraction because you may feel no desire to touch or be touched by the person that you find aesthetically pleasing. You simply notice the way that they look much in the way you might notice when someone has a nice car or when there is a sculpture in front of a building.

It doesn't mean that there can't be a physical or sexual attraction at the same time, but there is not necessarily.

You Can Learn More About Attraction From A Licensed Therapist

Overall, each of the different types of attraction is important in our lives. They occur with different people, and they tend to ebb and flow throughout our lives. The type of person we have a sexual attraction to at 19 or 20 may not be the same type of person that we do at 40 or 50. The person we have an aesthetic attraction to definitely won't be. But that's part of how we grow and develop.

Intellectual Attraction

You may have heard the term “intellectual attraction” before as well. This kind of attraction isn’t quite in the same ballpark as the other kinds of attraction that we’ve talked about, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth discussing.

Intellectual attraction refers to the desire to interact with people on a more cerebral level. You may want to spend time with them because of the topics that you discuss, or because someone makes you think about things in new and challenging ways.

Some people find that they need to feel intellectually attracted to someone in order to feel emotionally attracted or even romantically attracted to them, but that isn’t the case for everybody. Different people in different relationships can fill different roles and needs in our lives.

Because of its strictly non-physical nature, many people consider intellectual attraction to be an aspect of emotional attraction.

Getting Help

If you have trouble forming attachments or don't feel any of these types of attraction to anyone, you may want to seek out professional help. As mentioned above, not feeling some forms of attraction for others isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though it may mean that you have to navigate relationships in a different way – and that may require some guidance.

Sexual attraction is not present in everyone but having an emotional attraction or physical attraction is something that helps us to grow in healthy and positive ways. It means having someone that can be there for you to support your feelings and to comfort you, which are two extremely important parts of your life.

BetterHelp is one place that you can find out more about different types of attraction and how they are occurring in your life. With this online service, you get to connect with professionals from all over the country to find out more about what you're going through and about yourself.

You'll be able to talk with someone anywhere you want, and from anywhere you want, which makes it convenient. No more going downtown to the psychiatrist's office, you can instead just log on to your computer from your favorite room in the house and your most comfortable spot and just like that you're ready to go and ready to get help.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.