PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s the deadliest psychiatric disorder and treatment works best if started early.

Anorexia is a refusal to maintain a healthy weight and it puts people at a 12-times greater risk of death than others the same age, according to Dr. Stacey Cahn, associate professor of psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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“A lot of psychiatric disorders are associated with a lot of emotional suffering,” Cahn says. “Anorexia is associated with extreme medical risks, it can cause osteoporosis, lower heart rate, it can lead to death.”

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She says family members must step in quickly when symptoms arise.

“Significant weight loss that isn’t explained by a medical condition,” Cahn says, “or in younger children a failure to gain weight and to grow, a pre-occupation with food or weight and showing up to meals having quote just eaten.

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There are no drugs for treatment of anorexia, only therapy.