The agony of the morbidly obese person ranges from the awareness of potential life-threatening heart or lung problems to acute humiliation in trying to function in daily life.

These people, 100 pounds or 100 percent over their desirable weights, are usually medical emergencies waiting to happen and may require radical treatment.

Two approaches have offered some success:

* Very-low-calorie diets, devised by scientists and administered under the virtually constant surveillance of a physician.

In the Washington area two programs are considered outstanding:

Dr. Arthur Frank and associates, 3 Washington Circle, Washington, D.C. 20037 (223-3077). Provides a modified fasting program along with intensive group and behavior therapy and counseling.

Optifax Weight Loss Program, involving a medically monitored fast using the very-low-calorie Optifast supplement, is affiliated with Fairfax Hospital. Director is C.W. Kessler. Write Optifax Weight Loss Program, 4231 Markham St., Suite 223, Annandale, Va. 22003. Phone: 703-893-4448.

* Surgery to staple the stomach into small compartments. Obesity surgery may not solve the problem, but studies indicate that it can correct such serious abnormalities as glucose intolerance and hypertension.

Georgetown University Medical Center, in conjunction with its Diet Management Program, has a limited program combining psychotherapy, group therapy and surgery for appropriate subjects. Phone the diet center, 625-3674, or surgeon Dr. Thomas Lee, 625-7115.