Recent advances in the identification of the neural circuits, neurochemicals, and signal transduction mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology and treatment of mood disorders have led to much progress toward understanding the roles of genetic factors and psychosocial stressors. The monoaminergic neurotransmitter systems have received the most attention, partly because of the observation that effective antidepressant drugs exert their primary biochemical effects by regulating intrasynaptic concentrations of serotonin and norepinephrine. Furthermore, the monoaminergic systems are extensively distributed throughout the network of limbic, striatal, and prefrontal cortical neuronal circuits thought to support the behavioral and visceral manifestations of mood disorders. Increasing numbers of neuroimaging, neuropathological, and biochemical studies indicate impairments in cellular plasticity and resilience in patients who suffer from severe, recurrent mood disorders. In this paper, we describe studies identifying possible structural, functional, and cellular abnormalities associated with depressive disorders, which are potentially the cellular underpinnings of these diseases. We suggest that drugs designed to enhance cellular plasticity and resilience, and attenuate the activity of maladaptive stress-responsive systems, may be useful for the treatment of severe mood disorders.