eNewsletter - January 2023

Linden Oaks Eating Disorder Program Announces New Leadership 

Linden Oaks Behavioral Health is thrilled to welcome two new leaders to their Eating Disorder Program, Dr. Joseph Pepitone as medical director and Dr. Jacqueline Sierzega as program manager.

Joseph Pepitone, MD

Dr. Joseph Pepitone is board certified in psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry. He completed his medical school training at the Florida State University College of Medicine. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Florida State University and a master’s degree in theoretical chemistry from the University of Chicago.

Dr. Pepitone completed his residency and fellowship at the University of Vermont Medical Center, where he worked with a team to develop a manualized intervention to prevent the intergenerational transmission of substance use disorders using a family-based approach.

Dr. Pepitone loves working with Linden Oaks Eating Disorder Program patients. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to have more contact with our patients and their families,” he says. His clinical interests include working with the adolescent and young adult population, family-based assessment and treatment, eating disorders, functional and developmental neuroanatomy, and psychodynamic psychotherapy.

“I believe very much in, first and foremost, building healthy bodies and healthy minds, and nutrition is one of the cornerstones of this,” Dr. Pepitone says. “I look forward to helping patients develop better relationships with food and nutrition, exercise and movement and, overall, helping patients and their families build healthier habits incrementally over time to sustain and maintain a life of health and wellness.”

His approach to treatment is family-based, using cognitive behavioral therapy, parent/child interaction coaching and motivational interviewing. He aims to develop resilient minds and bodies through lifestyle and behavioral interventions and exposures.


Jacqueline Sierzega, PsyD

Dr. Jacqueline Sierzega graduated from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University with a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and specialization in health psychology. Her dissertation was entitled: “Use of the self-regulatory approach (SRA) in the treatment of nonsuicidal self-injury and eating disordered behaviors” and studied the reduction of self-injury and eating disordered behaviors in complex trauma survivors.

“My personal philosophy about treatment is including the patient and helping them create a lifestyle of wellness using behavioral changes and a multidisciplinary approach,” Dr. Sierzega says. “A whole-body approach is needed to treat eating disorders, including dietary support, medication management and therapeutic interventions.” She is looking forward to working with the talented and caring clinicians and staff in the Eating Disorder Program.

Dr. Sierzega is also the supervisor of the Linden Oaks Behavioral Health Psychological Testing and Doctoral Training Department, where she manages the training of psychology students. She is a member of multiple committees, including the Medical Necessity Committee, Trauma Committee, Creative Content Committee, Credentialing Committee, Autism Task Force and Zero Suicide Committee. Dr. Sierzega provides trainings and consultations to implement individualized behavior plans for patients with complex presentations. She is certified in dialectical behavior therapy and provides system trainings for NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Dr. Sierzega has worked in the mental health field in a variety of settings, including community mental health, private practice and behavioral health hospitals. Her work has primarily focused on disorders affecting the mind and body, such as anxiety, chronic pain, eating disorders and self-injury. Her approach to treatment integrates dialectical behavior therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy with exposure therapy to provide patients with skills to increase their ability to regulate emotions and tolerate overwhelming emotions. 

Finding more support

Nearly 28.8 million Americans will be diagnosed with an eating disorder in their lifetime and 91% of Americans engage in disordered eating behaviors. Eating disorders affect people from all ethnicities, ages, races, body types and shapes, and socioeconomic statuses, and are often seen as difficult to treat, but full recovery is possible.

The Linden Oaks Behavioral Health Eating Disorder Program treats eating disorders with a wide variety of comorbidities through inpatient, partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient program (IOP) and psychiatric services/outpatient therapy options. Treatment utilizes group therapy, individual/family therapy, nutrition education and exercise counseling to help address eating disorders with or without comorbidities.

If you know someone who would benefit from learning about treatment options related to eating disorders or another concern, please encourage them to contact the Linden Oaks Behavioral Health 24/7 Help Line at 630-305-5027 or complete our Assessment Request Form and one of our staff will contact them to assist.


What to do when winter makes you SAD

If the cold, gray days and dark nights of winter get you down, you’re not alone.
Every winter, half a million people in the U.S. slip into Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It feels like depression, but the symptoms are temporary.

SAD is a response to the shorter days of winter. The disorder can last from September to April with the peak occurring in December, January and February.

People with SAD may have an imbalance of melatonin and serotonin — two chemicals that regulate a person's sleep cycle, energy level and mood. (We produce more melatonin when it's dark, which causes a person to feel sleepy and lethargic. We make more serotonin when we're exposed to sunlight. So, during the winter months, we associate lower levels of serotonin with depression.)

Some of the most common signs of SAD include:

Weight gain
Feelings of hopelessness
Difficulty concentrating

People with SAD feel like themselves again by mid-spring or early summer. Until then, there are things people with SAD can do to feel better. Talk to your doctor about these common treatments:

Let the light in. Opening the blinds and letting sunshine in the windows will brighten your mood. If there isn’t enough light, invest in a light therapy box and spend time in front of it daily.

Eat right. Eating healthy food will help you avoid physical discomfort. It’ll also avert blood sugar crashes caused by too many refined carbs that can lead to lethargy and irritability. 

Exercise. Nothing brightens your outlook like a great workout. Try these cold-weather tactics.

Seek counseling. Talking about your feelings with a therapist can help you understand the problem and find a solution.

Keep your usual routine. People who experience SAD should continue their usual routine—including going outside and spending time with friends—even if they don’t feel up to it.
SAD is more than just the winter blues or a bad mood you experience because it's cold outside. If you feel these symptoms for three consecutive winter seasons, consult your doctor or a mental health professional.

Start your path to recovery today. Learn more about Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.