In this review, we present evidence for the involvement of imidazoline binding sites (IBS) in modulating responses to stress, through central control of monoaminergic and hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity. Pharmacological and physiological evidence is presented for differential effects of different IBS subtypes on serotoninergic and catecholaminergic pathways involved in control of basal and stress-stimulated HPA axis activity. IBS ligands can modulate behavioural and neuroendocrine responses in animal models of stress, depression and anxiety, and a body of evidence exists for alterations in central IBS expression in psychiatric patients, which can be normalised partially or fully by treatment with antidepressants. Dysfunction in monoaminergic systems and the HPA axis under basal and stress-induced activation has been extensively reported in psychiatric illnesses. On the basis of the literature, we suggest a potential therapeutic role for selective IBS ligands in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders.