Altered affective processing has been proposed as mediating between early life stress (ELS) and subsequent psychopathology. The present study examined whether ELS influences affective cortical processing differently in psychiatric patients and healthy subjects. The number of stressful experiences before onset of puberty was assessed in 50 inpatients with diagnoses of Major Depressive Disorder, schizophrenia, drug addiction, or Borderline Personality Disorder and in 20 healthy comparison subjects. Subjects monitored pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures during magnetoencephalographic recording. Suppression of right-posterior activity 160-210 ms after stimulus onset was associated with certain diagnoses and high ELS. Results confirmed specific contributions of ELS versus adult stress, comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder, or depression.