A concatenation of findings from preclinical and clinical studies support a preeminent function for the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) system in mediating the physiological response to external stressors and in the pathophysiology of anxiety and depression. Recently, human genetic studies have provided considerable support to several long-standing hypotheses of mood and anxiety disorders, including the CRF hypothesis. These data, reviewed in this report, are congruent with the hypothesis that this system is of paramount importance in mediating stress-related psychopathology. More specifically, variants in the gene encoding the CRF(1) receptor interact with adverse environmental factors to predict risk for stress-related psychiatric disorders. In-depth characterization of these variants will likely be important in furthering our understanding of the long-term consequences of adverse experience.