The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) is widely acknowledged as a brain structure that regulates stress and anxiety states, as well as aversive and appetitive behaviours. The diverse roles of the BNST are afforded by its highly modular organisation, neurochemical heterogeneity, and complex intrinsic and extrinsic circuitry. There has been growing interest in the BNST in relation to psychopathologies such as anxiety and addiction. Although research on the human BNST is still in its infancy, there have been extensive preclinical studies examining the molecular signature and hodology of the BNST and their involvement in stress and reward seeking behaviour. This review examines the neurochemical phenotype and connectivity of the BNST, as well as electrophysiological correlates of plasticity in the BNST mediated by stress and/or drugs of abuse.