An extensive literature stretching back decades has shown that prolonged stress or prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids-the adrenal steroids secreted during stress-can have adverse effects on the rodent hippocampus. More recent findings suggest a similar phenomenon in the human hippocampus associated with many neuropsychiatric disorders. This review examines the evidence for hippocampal atrophy in (1) Cushing syndrome, which is characterized by a pathologic oversecretion of glucocorticoids; (2) episodes of repeated and severe major depression, which is often associated with hypersecretion of glucocorticoids; and (3) posttraumatic stress disorder. Key questions that will be examined include whether the hippocampal atrophy arises from the neuropsychiatric disorder, or precedes and predisposes toward it; whether glucocorticoids really are plausible candidates for contributing to the atrophy; and what cellular mechanisms underlie the overall decreases in hippocampal volume. Explicit memory deficits have been demonstrated in Cushing syndrome, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder; an extensive literature suggests that hippocampal atrophy of the magnitude found in these disorders can give rise to such cognitive deficits.