Early neglect or maltreatment has been associated with changes in children's processing of emotional facial expressions, including a hypersensitivity to the emotion of anger. This may facilitate the avoidance of danger in a maltreating environment. However, few studies have examined whether experiences of early life stress (ELS) are associated with atypical avoidance responses towards emotional facial expressions, or whether the effects of ELS can be observed in adult participants. The present study therefore examined the effects of ELS on adults’ approach-avoidance tendencies towards angry, happy, and neutral facial expressions. Surprisingly, higher levels of ELS were associated with reduced avoidance of angry facial expressions among individuals with no evidence of mental illness. In contrast, there was no evidence of a relationship between ELS and avoidance of angry facial expressions among individuals with experience of mental illness. These novel findings suggest that ELS-related changes in social cognition can be observed years after the ELS itself occurred.