The bar results from an application of the law to a set of facts. For the US if you overstay six months and then leave you are barred for three years. And yes - you apply, answer the questions, and are told you are barred. So you need to see an attorney and have him or her analyze the facts and apply the law.
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Its usally the the detention and putting you on the next plane home. If you did something that would get you barred, then don't risk the humiliation.
As far as specifics, even 5 month overstay will probably get the visa cancelled these days. More than 6 months and leaving triggers 3 year bar.
I agree with the other attorneys
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The exact dates are what determine the bar. If you overstayed for 5 months, you are okay. If you overstayed for 6 or more, you have a 3 yr bar. If you overstayed for more than 1 yr, you have a 10 yr bar. If you do have a bar, there are certain waivers available depending on why you overstayed and why you want to re-enter. You should contact an immigration attorney to determine which are available to you.
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Just consult with an experienced immigration attorney. If a person has been unlawfully present I the US for more than 180 days and then departs, the person will have automatically triggered the 3/10 year inadmissibility bar. No notices are sent to make the person aware of the bar.
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