The study aimed to test the hypotheses that chronic social instability stress (CSIS) alters behavioral and physiological parameters and expression of selected genes important for stress response and social behaviors. Adult female Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to the 4-week CSIS procedure, which involves unpredictable rotation between phases of isolation and overcrowding. Behavioral analyses (Experiment 1) were performed on the same rats before and after CSIS (n = 16) and physiological and biochemical measurements (Experiment 2) were made on further control (CON; n = 7) and stressed groups (CSIS; n = 8). Behaviors in the open field test (locomotor and exploratory activities) and elevated-plus maze (anxiety-related behaviors) indicated anxiety after CSIS. CSIS did not alter the physiological parameters measured, i.e. body weight gain, regularity of estrous cycles, and circulating concentrations of stress hormones and sex steroids. QRT-PCR analysis of mRNA expression levels was performed on amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex (PFC), and hypothalamus. The main finding is that CSIS alters the mRNA levels for the studied genes in a region-specific manner. Hence, expression of POMC (pro-opiomelanocortin), AVPR1a (arginine vasopressin receptor), and OXTR (oxytocin receptor) significantly increased in the amygdala following CSIS, while in PFC and/or hypothalamus, POMC, AVPR1a, AVPR1b, OXTR, and ERβ (estrogen receptor beta) expression decreased. CSIS significantly reduced expression of CRH-R1 (corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor type 1) in the hippocampus. The directions of change in gene expression and the genes and regions affected indicate a molecular basis for the behavior changes. In conclusion, CSIS may be valuable for further analyzing the neurobiology of stress-related disorders in females.