When we think of the word lust, it conjures up all sorts of things. The definition of lust is intense sexual attraction or desire. This sexual desire is often defined as being for someone other than a partner, though the modern connotations may not be this specific. This intense sexual attraction is in most cases just a sign of a healthy sexual appetite as an adult, but sometimes it's a sign of something a bit more complicated. Studies using MRI technology have shown that lust lights up the brain in the same areas an addict's brain does on drugs. Intense physical attraction and hormones together fuel projection and idealization which can cloud our judgment of reality.
Within the brain, the pituitary gland controls a range of hormones including gonadotropin-releasing hormones (which are thought to be a human pheromone) and androgens. The most well-known androgen, testosterone, is linked to sexual arousal and physical attraction. Both men and women that have high levels of testosterone have stronger sex drives and are more likely to have active sex lives. When people kiss, testosterone is exchanged through saliva. As testosterone is also the male sex hormone, it's possible that men struggle more with lust than women.
What triggers this response (what causes us to be lustful) is part of the natural drive to procreate, so when we see a possible mate, the brain is wired to release chemicals that make us more likely to pursue them for that purpose. On a base level, our bodies don't care about love; they care about the continuation of the species which is where lust becomes useful. The part of the brain that is involved in behavioral regulation and self-awareness is not active in this process, meaning it's entirely subconscious. We cannot choose to lust after someone; our brains will do it for us on a chemical level.
People often struggle to tell the difference between lust versus love. They also wonder if love is related to lust. The truth is, they are related, but they are not the same. The reason for this is that in the beginning many symptoms are similar and can get confused. Because having a healthy sexual attraction to your partner is normal when you're in love, the issue becomes further complex. For many people, you can't have love without some lust thrown in. Signs that you're in lust rather than in love might include not discussing feelings for each other, being focused on their body, and an intense desire to leave after sex, rather than stay together.
If you're in love, you're more likely to want to spend time with each other outside of the bedroom and may be more interested in them as a person. When you're in love, you want to be deeply involved in the other person's life, while lust can often be a surface-level connection. Often, it's your gut feeling that will determine whether you know if you're in love or lust because there's an element of the attraction that feels powerfully dark or potentially destructive. Using your gut can go a long way in that initial period of raging hormones where it's difficult to tell the two emotions apart.
Research points to online therapy platforms as valuable resources when helping those with addictions, like lust addiction, manage their symptoms. For example, a broad-based study published in Clinical Psychology Review found that online therapy was successful in producing behavioral changes in people with addictions. In the report, researchers mention the treatment gap that exists with those experiencing addiction, meaning oftentimes those who need therapy are either not able to find it, or don’t seek it out, due to certain barriers. The study states that online therapy is a way of bridging this treatment gap due to increased accessibility. This can be added to a large amount of evidence that suggests the positive long-term effects of online therapy when it comes to managing symptoms arising from a range of mental health disorders, including those that lead to lust addiction.
As mentioned above, if you or someone you love is dealing with complicated emotions that may be arising out of a lust addiction, online therapy can help. If you’re concerned about privacy, know that online therapy through BetterHelp is discreet and safe. You won’t have to worry about sitting in a crowded waiting room, and you’ll never have to discuss your treatment with anyone but your therapist. Also, you’ll have the option of seeking therapy completely anonymously. BetterHelp does not require you to provide your name or contact information, allowing you utilize a “nickname” when you register, if you choose. The mental health professionals at BetterHelp know how to provide you with the tools to address a difficult addiction. Read below for counselor reviews, from those who have experienced similar issues.
If you or someone you know is struggling with lust or sexual addiction, it's important to get help. Addiction of any sort can affect your mental health, and while sex may not take the same physical toll on the body that some addictions exert, it still can be harmful.