When subjected to stress, some individuals develop maladaptive symptoms whereas others retain normal behavior. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is known to control these adaptive responses to stress. Here, we show that mPFC neurons in the left hemisphere control stress effects on social behavior. Mice made socially avoidant by the stress of chronic social defeats showed depressed neural activity in the left mPFC. Photoactivation of these neurons reversed social avoidance and restored social activity. Despite social defeats, resilient mice with normal sociability showed normal firing rates in the left mPFC; however, photoinhibition of these neurons induced social avoidance. The same photomodulation administered to the right mPFC caused no significant effects. These results explain how stressed individuals develop maladaptive behaviors through left cortical depression, as reported in mood and anxiety disorders.