Teenagers with common moodiness problems are being wrongly diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, a psychiatrist Thursday told a medical conference in Australia.

Psychiatrists are increasingly misdiagnosing relatively harmless mood swings in the mistaken belief they are nipping a more serious problem in the bud, Philip Hazell, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Sydney Medical School, said.

Hazell suggested that while bipolar disorder could occur in teenagers and was serious and disabling when it did many young people had been diagnosed with the condition using broader criteria, when they suffered from "lookalike" mood issues that would never develop into the more serious disease.

In some cases, teenagers wrongly labeled with bipolar disorder were being treated with mood-stabilizing drugs and other therapies, which not only brought side effects and costs but also denied the patients the correct treatments that would help them control their emotions better, he told health workers attending the Australian and New Zealand Adolescent Health Conference.

"Effectively, I think quite a few young people now with benign moodiness have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and are being treated for that condition unnecessarily," Hazell said.

Other psychiatrists were divided over Hazell's comments.

Gordon Parker, executive director of the Black Dog Institute, said while over-diagnosis appeared to be rampant in the U.S., he did not accept that it was widespread in Australia.

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