If You Suffer From Migraines, Here's How To Get Your Boss To Take Them Seriously

Throbbing pain, nausea, light sensitivity, extreme fatigue — migraine symptoms are no joke. A migraine attack can disrupt your daily routine, including your work life. And workplaces are often filled with migraine triggers, like bright light from laptop screens, noisy office chatter, and stress-inducing deadlines (per Mayo Clinic).

According to the Office on Women's Health, migraines affect nearly 30 million Americans, with about 75% of migraine sufferers being women. Most people know someone who gets migraines at least occasionally, yet the condition is still widely misunderstood. That can make discussing migraines with a boss intimidating for many. And that might be why, in a survey conducted by prescription service Cove, 60% of people report that they don't talk about their migraines with their managers.

However, talking about your symptoms could be the key to getting help when migraine pain strikes. It could even protect your employment, especially if you need to take days off or show up late from time to time. So how can you get your boss to take your migraines seriously?

Talk to your boss about migraines clearly and early

Whether you have to navigate work with a difficult boss or you two get along great, talking with your boss about how migraines may impact your work can be uncomfortable. To get them on your side, it's generally best to open up as soon as possible. As Migraine.com explains, employers are more likely to empathize if you open up before your productivity has taken a hit. If you wait to discuss your migraines later, they may believe you're only reaching for excuses.

Excedrin also suggests explaining your symptoms in clear, easy-to-understand terms. Remember that your boss isn't a doctor, so being specific ("My vision gets blurry and I sometimes throw up," instead of, "It's like a severe headache") can help them understand and take you more seriously.

If you're already suffering from a migraine attack and need to call in sick, taking initiative is key. According to Migraine Again, employers want to see that their employees have a plan, so while you may not be able to work now, organize how you'll get tasks done later. When taking the day off, explain to your manager when you plan to return to work, and set a deadline for when you can make up projects. If possible, reach out to a co-worker who may also be able to cover some of your duties while you're away.

Discuss specific migraine accommodations

Practicing self-care when migraines strike is crucial, but it can't always take the place of help from your boss. You may need accommodations to prevent or cope with migraines in the workplace.

According to Medical News Today, migraines can, in some cases, be considered a disability in the U.S. — meaning you may have rights when it comes to disability discrimination and reasonable accommodations. Accommodations are adjustments to your job conditions that allow you to work comfortably, taking your condition into consideration. A Migraine Trust spokesperson tells Bustle that the first step to asking for accommodations is to pinpoint potential migraine triggers in your workplace, which "could be physical, such as lack of ventilation or lighting, but could also be working patterns such as shift work or the inability to take an adequate lunch break, or stress that is caused by a particular role."

Then, discuss clearly what workarounds you need, such as a quiet space, modified lighting, or longer break times. "Giving your supervisor some alternatives that you've already considered is a great way to highlight that you are willing to find solutions that are best for both you and the company," counselor Taish Malone, Ph.D., tells Self. In other words, even if asking for help might feel awkward, it actually shows that you prioritize both your well-being and your job.