Both The Hills star and the show's executive producer have confirmed that she will be leaving the MTV reality series at the conclusion of its upcoming fifth season.
"It's bittersweet," Conrad told Us Weekly in a feature interview published in the magazine's March 16 issue. "I've spent the last five years making every decision be about the show. People I date have to be able to film, the places I work have to let us film and the places I live have to have set lighting. I'm ready to do things on my own. I loved doing it and had so much fun, but it came to a point where I had done it long enough."
Liz Gately, The Hills' executive producer, also called Conrad's departure "bittersweet," but told the Los Angeles Times that she understands Conrad's decision to move on from the show.
"Fans first fell in love with Lauren when she was just 17 years old and a high school senior in Laguna Beach," Gately told the Times. "For the five years that followed, Lauren allowed MTV to follow every aspect of her incredible journey in life. We watched her grow into an adult on The Hills, from her first real love to finding a career in fashion to difficult times when friendships unraveled."
Conrad told Us that her personal relationships -- including her "off-camera" romantic relationship with My Boys actor Kyle Howard -- had also played a role in her decision to leave the MTV reality series.
"It's very difficult to have a relationship off the show, because when you're with someone they become a very big part of your life. So when you're on a show about your life, it's hard never to address them," she said. "It's hard for production, it's hard for me, but I just need to have my own relationships."
"With activities where I wanted to invite my off-camera friends, they either weren't allowed to film or they didn't like the cameras around. I always had to have two birthday parties and celebrate things especially," she added. "Any sort of trip or party that didn't have to do with filming had to be submitted and approved ahead of time. It was all very planned out."
Conrad added that in addition to the filming itself, behind-the-scenes problems rising from production issues had also led to complications in her life -- including sometimes tense relations with her neighbors.
"We lived in one neighborhood for a year, and every neighbor hated us," Conrad told Us. "They were upset about the paparazzi, the tour buses. We offered to go to the city with them to fix the problems. It was hard to be despised for things that were completely out of our hands."
During the itnerview, Conrad also addressed The Hills' oft-criticized failure to show the celebrity status she has developing since she first began appearing on Laguna Beach.
"It was a decision producers made: Part of the appeal of a reality show is that it had a relatable quality," she said. "People can relate to screwing up at a job or breaking up, but the average viewer isn't going to relate to your issue with the paparazzi."
Conrad told Us that she expects her final day of filming will be a relatively low-key affair.
"There'll probably be tears and cupcakes. I'm trying to put together a cocktail party for the whole crew for one final goodbye. You become close," she said.
As for her relationships with The Hills co-stars Audrina Partridge and Heidi Montag, as well as Whitney Port -- who left the series to star in MTV's The City spinoff last season -- Conrad said that she hoped to remain close with them, despite the separate directions each one of their lives had taken them.
"The four of us started out very green to the city. Now one's across the country, and the other three are slowly drifting apart. We've all come to find ourselves but lost each other along the way. Whitney and I are friends and we no longer film together, so I know we'll stay friends. I think Audrina and I are going to stay in touch."
And what about that reconciliation with Montag?
"I think that we basically have [reconciled] for now. We've worked out the problem," Conrad said. "I think it's good to come to an agreement that you can get along and be fine, but that doesn't mean you can always go back to the way things were."
The fifth season of The Hills -- which MTV had previously been terming "bonus" fourth-season episodes -- will premiere on Monday, March 30 at 10PM ET/PT on MTV.