Anxiety in and of itself is not a bad thing.
It’s an adaptive response that signals potential danger and can lead to preparation and better decisions. For instance, anxiety over a difficult exam may cause you to study harder.
Excessive anxiety, however, is maladaptive: in this case, anxiety is either out of proportion to the situation, or it may be there when no danger is present at all.
Traditional treatments for anxiety include benzodiazepines, SSRIs and SNRIs, and other antidepressants. These drugs mediate either neurotransmitters or neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. Think of a neurotransmitter and its receptor as a lock and key, respectively. Without the lock (the receptor), the key (the neurotransmitter) cannot perform its function.
These medications have their places and can be helpful, but they also have their share of side effects and cautions, as you probably know if you’ve been on them for any length of time. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, including Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft, Prozac, etc) can significantly impact sleep, digestion, and sexual function. Benzodiazepines (such as Lorazepam) are very addictive and can be dangerous in combination with other medications. Some anti-anxiety medications can even increase the incidence of anxiety itself for certain patients.