The neuroendocrine and behavioral effects of chronic paroxetine treatment were investigated in two rat lines selectively bred for high anxiety-related behavior (HAB) or low anxiety-related behavior (LAB) emotionality. In addition to a characteristic behavioral phenotype with markedly passive stress-coping strategies, HAB rats show a hypothalamic vasopressinergic hyperdrive that is causally related to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical dysregulation as demonstrated in the combined dexamethasone (DEX)/corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) test. A total of 8 weeks of chronic paroxetine treatment induced a more active coping strategy in the forced swim test in HAB rats only. In contrast, paroxetine-treated LAB rats did not change their swimming behavior. To investigate the neuroendocrine alterations linked to these behavioral changes, a combined DEX/CRH test was performed. In HAB rats, the paroxetine-induced behavioral changes towards more active coping strategies were accompanied by a normalization of the CRH-stimulated increase in corticotropin (ACTH) and corticosterone secretion. Concomitantly, the hypothalamic vasopressinergic hyperdrive was found to be reduced in HAB but not LAB rats, as indicated by a decrease in vasopressin mRNA expression, whereas vasopressin 1a receptor binding was unaffected. These findings provide the first evidence that the vasopressinergic system is likely to be critically involved in the behavioral and neuroendocrine effects of antidepressant drugs. This novel mechanism of action of paroxetine on vasopressin gene regulation renders vasopressinergic neuronal circuits a promising target for the development of more causal antidepressant treatment strategies.